Fourteen states, from Florida to Washington, have gone to court in an effort to block the new health care law, arguing that the federal government has no right to force their citizens to buy something that they may not want: medical insurance.
Thirteen of the states, led by Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum (pictured), filed a joint federal lawsuit Monday in Pensacola, where they called the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of states," CNN
reports. McCollum and 12 other attorneys general involved are Republicans; Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana is the lone Democrat.
Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, the state legal officers assert, is there a mandate requiring citizens to have health coverage. The new law, which offers subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance, imposes financial penalties on those who do not comply by 2014.
Lawsuits challenging federal authority often rely on the "commerce clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "powers not delegated" to the federal government by the Constitution are "reserved to the states respectively." But efforts by states to circumvent federal laws are often trumped by the Constitution's "supremacy clause": laws passed by the Congress "shall be the supreme law of the land."
In Virginia, conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II went to the federal courthouse in Richmond with his own arguments. The Virginia case claims that a state law enacted earlier this month prohibits the federal government from forcing coverage on citizens and creates an "immediate, actual controversy" between the state and federal government, giving Virginia unique standing to sue.
The Obama administration does not appear to be overly concerned. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said government lawyers are confident they will win the lawsuits.
"Lawsuits follow every bill that's passed," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a dozen columnists, including Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence, at a roundtable in her office Tuesday. She said the new law was "written with care" and vetted by lawyers to make sure it can survive legal challenges.
The other states involved are Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.