Opponents of Health Care File Legal Challenges Against New Law

The ink from President Obama's pen had hardly dried after he signed the Health Care Reform bill into law this morning when attorneys general from 12 states formally sued the federal government. Led by the politically ambitious Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the challengers contend that the mandate requiring health insurance for all people is unconstitutional. As of 4:45 pm today, 11 other states have joined the lawsuit: South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana.

Political theater aside, such a lawsuit will likely turn out to be nothing more than a hiccup in this law's path towards historic reform. The truth is that Congress structured the mandate for individual coverage as a tax and, as we should all remember from government 101, the Framers gave Congress the power of the purse. But should the High Court agree to hear the case, Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin believes that the Court's treatment of the Commerce Clause would allow for such a tax and thus leave Health care Reform in tact. As the New York Times reported this morning,

Courts generally defer to Congress’s taxation decisions and definitions so long as they constitute a “genuine revenue-raising device,” Professor Balkin said, and so the health insurance mandate is likely to pass muster.

In addition to mounting direct legal challenges to the law, a few Republicans are organizing other efforts to disrupt the Act. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Steve King (IA-5) have introduced legislation to repeal the bill. And Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will soon sign a bill which would expempt Virginia from parts of the law. I can only hope that these elected officials will find it within themselves to get over the partisan political posturing and give this important and historic legislation a chance for real reform.