Today, a federal judge ruled against the federal government, which requested the court throw out a lawsuit by the state of Virginia challenging the health-care reform act. The government argued that the lawsuit didn't have merit both because Virginia didn't have standing -- the individual mandate hasn't gone into effect yet and, in any case, the state itself wouldn't be harmed by that -- and because the right of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce was broad. Ruling against it in this case would overturn well-established and very old precedent, the government argued. The judge, in his decision, appeared to agree with Virginia that the case raises an interesting question on whether taxing individuals for not participating in the insurance market is new.
The judge emphasized, and it's important to remember, that this is the first in what will likely be many, many hearings. The standards for dismissing a lawsuit before it really starts are high, as well. The fact remains, as Scott Lemieux wrote right after the bill's passage, that it's hard to imagine a court actually finding the bill unconstitutional. Moreover, it doesn't seem as though it's a political winner for states to continue to pursue. Polls show that Bill McCollum, the Florida attorney general who is leading a multi-state lawsuit, might be hurt in his race for governor, and it's clear more Americans are liking the legislation. While conservative sites are trumpeting today's news as a big winner, it's surely likely to remain a big loser.
-- Monica Potts
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