A legal challenge to the health- care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama probably will be allowed to proceed, said a federal judge in Florida.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola said today he will make a decision by Oct. 14 on whether the states have jurisdiction to sue. Sympathizing with the claims of the states, Vinson told lawyers he would probably dismiss part of the suit, while allowing other claims to proceed.
“The states are left almost powerless to affect Congress,” Vinson said. “It’s enforced upon them whether they like it or not.”
The states allege the government’s requirement that people buy health insurance exceeds congressional powers under the Constitution, while the U.S. counters that provision is allowed under its commerce powers because of the billions of dollars a year in unpaid medical bills absorbed by the market each year.
The Justice Department claims the lawsuit is premature and fails to identify any injury the states have suffered.
Any injuries to state budgets fall short of the imminent harm required to bring a claim, the U.S. argued before Vinson.
“The state is free to disagree with the policy judgment of Congress,” said Ira Gershengorn, an attorney for the U.S. “It is not free to overturn 75 or 100 years of constitutional law.”
Florida Assistant Attorney General Blaine Winship told Vinson the “the law is an unprecedented intrusion on the sovereignty of states and the liberty of their citizens.”
A federal judge in Richmond, Virginia, last month allowed a similar lawsuit brought by that state to proceed, rejecting the federal government’s motion to dismiss the claim. He scheduled an Oct. 18 hearing for further arguments.
Joining Florida in the suit were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. The National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobbying group, also joined Florida’s lawsuit.