Monday, March 29, 2010

Cuccinelli Fights the Federal Government

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President Obama has signed health care reform legislation into effect, but Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is suing the federal government to keep the state from participating.

Cuccinelli says the law is unconstitutional, and Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell is standing behind the attorney general.

"The federal law is unconstitutional because the government is forcing citizens to buy health insurance, saying it has such authority because its power to regulate interstate commerce," Cuccinelli said last week.

"But if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce. If you are not engaging in commence, how can the federal government regulate that? Just being alive is not interstate commerce, otherwise there are no limits to the commerce clause and [to] the Congress’s authority to regulate what we do. There has never been a point in our history where our federal government requires us to buy goods or services. Such a requirement would represent an enormous erosion of liberty in this country."

Under the new law, Virginians with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. Small businesses will get tax credits to help provide health care and senior citizens will no longer fall into Medicare’s “donut hole,” a grey area involving out-of-pocket copayments.

Cuccinelli had his suit ready to file Sunday night, waiting for Obama to sign the health care legislation into law. Minutes after the president did so, Cuccinelli was ready with cameras and media present to explain his stance.

This isn’t the first time Cuccinelli has sued a federal agency. In February, he sued the Environmental Protection Agency in regards to man-made global warming, claiming that it does not exist.

David Mills, Executive Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, says Cuccinelli is trying to put himself between the benefits of the health care reform and the tens of thousands of Virginians who could benefit from it.

"The attorney general’s office could really be making a massive difference for Virginians. But instead of focusing, he’s decided to file these lawsuits. I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes him think these things are more important," Mills said.

"The whole thing is just an example of misplaced priorities. And an example what happens when an individual uses their office as a piggy bank for their political agenda."

Mills said that the Democratic Party of Virginia filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the attorney general’s office last week to see how many tax dollars may be spent in the suit.

"It’s very possible [the suit] will be thrown out for not having any standing and being a massive waste of resources, the public’s time, and tax payers dollars. In a down budget time it’s not what we need from the peoples' attorney," Mills said.

Thirteen other state attorneys general have filed similar suits -- all but one are Republicans.

Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University seriously doubts the suit will succeed on its merits.

"The state doesn’t have standing to do this," Jost said. "Under Article III of the Constitution, you have to show some kind of injury to bring a lawsuit. Number one, it’s not in effect yet, and two, it doesn’t affect the states. I can’t imagine how they are going to show standing."

-Laura Peters

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