- Associated Press - Thursday, December 16, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for 20 states fighting the new federal health care law told a judge Thursday it will expand the government’s powers in dangerous and unintended ways.

The states want U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to issue a summary judgment throwing out the health care law without a full trial. They argue it violates people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

“The act would leave more constitutional damage in its wake than any other statute in our history,” David Rivkin, an attorney for the states, told Judge Vinson.

The Obama administration counters that Americans should not have a choice of opting out of the overhaul because everyone requires medical care.

In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson earlier this week became the first federal judge to strike down a key portion of the law when he sided with Virginia and ruled the insurance requirement unconstitutional. Two other federal judges have upheld the insurance requirement.

In Florida, Judge Vinson questioned how the government could halt the massive changes to the nation’s health care system that already have begun. Mr. Rivkin told him the constitutional violations are more important.

Attorneys for the federal government want Judge Vinson to issue a summary judgment on their behalf, arguing the states don’t have standing to challenge the law.

The lawsuits almost certainly will be decided eventually by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Vinson, who was appointed to the bench almost 30 years ago by President Ronald Reagan, has said he won’t rule immediately in the Florida case.

The other states involved in the lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.