The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard Virginia’s challenge to the federal health care act today in Richmond. The three-judge panel, which was randomly selected, included two Obama appointees, James A. Wynn, Jr. and Andre M. Davis, and one Clinton appointee, Diana Gribbon Motz, could decide the fate of this appeal. Whether the appeal is sustained or overturned, this case will likely be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The audio from today’s hearings can be heard here.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made the following statement regarding today’s hearing:
Today we took Step Two in a three-step process. As Judge Motz noted, the legal questions raised today are questions that will be answered in another court in another time.
I am going to give you an overview of the case as a whole, then I will get to the specifics of today.
Virginia has argued that the mandate that every person must buy government-approved health insurance violates the Constitution. Using the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to force people to buy a product goes beyond Congress’s power. This is why I have said all along that this is about liberty, not health care.
The insurance mandate penalizes people for not engaging in commerce. In other words, you can get fined for doing nothing.
Virginia has also argued that the penalty the government wants to charge if you do not buy health insurance is not a tax. The government cannot start calling the penalty a tax to try to make it legal under Congress’s taxing authority. Congress and the president passed it as a penalty, not a tax; it works as a penalty, not as a tax.
The federal government argued in court today that it should have unlimited authority in your lives, including the authority to regulate – i.e. dictate – your decisions, not merely your actions. The questions from the panel today indicated the judges struggled with this unprecedented exercise of authority.
If we cross this constitutional line with health care now – where the government can force us to buy a private product and say it is for our own good – then we will have given the government the power to force us to buy other private products, such as cars, gym memberships, or even asparagus. The government’s power to intrude on our lives for our own good will be virtually unlimited.
Virginia is fighting for the system of limited government created by our Founding Fathers. The Constitution’s limitations on federal power mean something. Even the president and the Congress must act within the rules set forth in the Constitution. That separates the American experience from many other countries, and it is a principle worth fighting for. As attorney general of Virginia, I took an oath to protect the Constitution, and I’m keeping that oath.
You heard about standing today. The federal government thinks it can tell the states to disregard their own laws – like it is doing with Arizona, but then also says the states do not have the same right to challenge federal laws in court. That is not how our system of government is set up. The founders set it up so the states were a check on potentially overreaching federal authority.
Virginia has a law – passed on a strong bipartisan basis – to protect Virginians from an individual insurance mandate. We are in the Fourth Circuit today because the U.S. Supreme Court has said that every state may defend its code of laws. In addition to protecting the U.S. Constitution, today we are also fighting to protect Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act.
I have said all along that this lawsuit is not about health care. It is about liberty. At the same time, I understand that people want more affordable health care, and I sympathize with people who honestly cannot afford it. As a state senator, that was a problem I tried to address by trying to pass a law to allow our citizens to buy better or cheaper plans in other states.
But as someone who has sworn to uphold the law, I cannot endorse taking away the rights of all so that government can provide health care to some.
Yes, parts of our health care system need to be fixed. Yes, expenses are out of control. Yes, not everyone’s needs are being met. But there are better solutions than giving up our freedom.
With this ongoing court battle, there is a great deal of uncertainty for states, individuals, and businesses as to whether this law will be around two years from now or not. We need this resolved as quickly as possible – for the good of our people and our economy. We want to know where Virginia and the nation stand as soon as possible and before billions are spent complying with a law that we clearly think is unconstitutional.
We hope to hear from the Fourth Circuit sometime this summer. Then, we hope to move on to the Supreme Court.
Kudos to Attorney General Cuccinelli for standing up for our constitutional liberties. The federal health care act is unconstitutional, as people should be allowed the right to choose whether or not they want or need health care coverage. This law also places immense strain on small business owners, who are often fledgling to make payroll, etc.