The man who put the first dent in the president’s health care law, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, is a newcomer to the national stage, but he’s long been a crusader against the expansion of federal powers — winning his share of friends and foes along the way.
Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, says anybody who has followed his political career — including eight years in the state Senate — shouldn’t be surprised that he’s challenging the health care act, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency,against which he is also leading the charge in a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit.
“There is no question I’m one of the people on point fighting against government overreach when they get outside their legal boundaries, and they seem to be very inclined to come up very close to them and sometimes cross those lines,” he said. “The EPA has done it, the Congress and the president have done it.”
A virtual unknown outside Virginia before this week, Mr. Cuccinelli rounded out a strong Republican ticket that swept into office last year, with Robert F. McDonnell grabbing most of the attention for winning the governor’s mansion and Bill Bolling securing a second term as lieutenant governor.
“I’m on dartboards all over the country,” he said proudly.
In the ruling, Judge Henry Hudson said that forcing all Americans to buy health insurance “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.”
Judge Hudson also accepted Mr. Cuccinelli’s argument that the administration was improperly trying to use taxing power, rather than the less robust powers under the commerce and general welfare clauses of the Constitution.
The ruling followed oral arguments this year in which Mr. Cuccinelli’s office defended a Virginia law enacted by the General Assembly that challenged the federal mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.
Throughout his time in office, Mr. Cuccinelli hasn’t been shy about sharing his political beliefs and being confident about his arguments.
“I’ve been called plenty of things, especially in the last 24 hours; well, 25.5 hours to be exact,” he said. “But one thing nobody has said is that what we’re doing here is not something we said we would do during the campaign. No one is saying I pulled a fast one on them.”
In fact, after his election in November 2009, he started building a legal team with the skills to take on the health care package and what he saw as other questionable laws.
“When I was hiring during the transition, I was hiring with an eye toward federalism contests,” he said. “So I have people in house who have the talent to do this.”
As part of that effort, he has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Virginia and with Alabama that challenges the EPA decision that it can regulate emissions because they cause climate change and endanger human health. Mr. Cuccinelli says the regulation of carbon dioxide would hurt Virginia’s business community and cause energy prices to rise for the people who can least afford it.