- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2010

Virginia invoked a law Monday to challenge the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, as roughly 10 other states prepare for similar legislation.

Less than eight hours after Congress passed sweeping health care reforms, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, announced the legal challenge.

Cuccinelli said he will invoke a 12-day-old state law in challenging what he and other conservatives decry as an unconstitutional overreach of federal authority.

Cuccinelli said he would base his U.S. District Court lawsuit on a 12-day-old Virginia law and file the action as soon as President Obama signs into law the bill, making Virginia the first state to enact a law that bucks any effort by the federal government to impose federal health care reform in the states

The Virginia law says that no resident of the state can be compelled by the federal law to have health insurance, nor can any Virginian be forced to pay a fine or penalty for refusing health coverage.

While enactment of the Virginia law is complete, it doesn’t take effect until July 1.

That doesn’t prohibit the attorney general from using it as the basis for his lawsuit, said Mr. Cuccinelli’s spokesman, Brian Gottstein.

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he planned to file the complaint “the moment Obama signs the bill.” Abbott pledged to pursue the case “to protect all Texans’ constitutional rights, preserve the constitutional framework intended by our nation’s founders and defend our state from further infringement by the federal government.”

Other states planning to challenge the bill were Alabama, Idaho, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said the measure “tramples on individual liberty and dumps on the states the burden of an unfunded mandate that taxpayers cannot afford.”

Bruning, a Republican, is president of the National Association of Attorneys General. His statement did not explain why he believes the bill is unconstitutional. But other attorneys general have said it violates state sovereignty by mandating that all Americans have some form of health insurance.

The House voted 219-212 late Sunday to approve the overhaul, which would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and make a host of other changes. Obama could sign the bill as early as Tuesday.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said Sunday he will join Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in again promising a legal challenge of the health care reform measure passed by the U.S. House.

“The courts allow you to take a law into court ahead of time if there is what’s called an ‘actual controversy.’ Even though the law does not take effect until July, we know it will take effect, and we know it will conflict with another law, in this case the federal health care law, and it is in the best interest to resolve it sooner rather than later,” Mr. Gottstein said.

Supporters of the Virginia law say it underscores protections the state already should enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. The 10th Amendment gives states any powers the Constitution doesn’t either forbid or reserve for the federal government.

The Virginia bill passed comfortably in the Republican-controlled House and on a 23-17 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In both chambers, some Democrats supported the measure.

Opponents called it a vain and partisan effort by Virginia’s new Republican leaders to shake a fist at Washington before this year’s midterm races for Congress. One Democratic legislator likened it to Virginia’s defiance in the 1950s and ‘60s of federal court orders to racially desegregate its whites-only public schools.

Roughly 34 other state assemblies are considering similar legislation.

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