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October 15, 2010

States Allowed To Sue Over Health Care Reform

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that 20 states can move forward with a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Obama administration's health-care reform legislation.

The decision by Florida Northern District Judge Roger Vinson is not unexpected, as he told Justice Department officials that he would block efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed during a September hearing. However, as Washington Post Staff Writer N.C. Aizenman points out, the decision "is limited to the plaintiffs' standing to mount the case, as opposed to its merits."

"In this order, I have not attempted to determine whether the line between constitutional and extraconstitutional government has been crossed," Vinson wrote in his ruling, according to Tom Brown of Reuters. "I am only saying that"¦the plaintiffs have at least stated a plausible claim that the line has been crossed."

Four of the six claims brought against the $2.5 trillion overhaul of the American health care system were thrown out by Vinson. However, the judge ruled that they will be able to contest whether or not the law's mandate requiring most citizens to buy health insurance "exceeds Congress's constitutional authority to regulate commerce" and make new laws necessary to help them carry out their governmental powers, Aizenman reports.

"On a related note, Vinson ruled that the fee imposed on people who fail to comply with the individual mandate amounts to a 'penalty' rather than a 'tax.' This would mean that Congress's ability to impose it cannot derive from its constitutional powers of taxation," the Washington Post reporter added.

A hearing to debate the merits of the lawsuit, which was filed in March by Florida and 19 other states--Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Washington--will proceed as previously scheduled for December 16.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum told Brown that the ruling was "a victory for the states, small businesses and the American people," and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch added that it was "a recognition"¦ that the constitutional arguments have real merit."

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