March 23rd, 2010
05:02 PM ET
4 years ago

States sue to block health care bill

Officials from 14 states have filed suit to block the health care bill.
Officials from 14 states have filed suit to block the health care bill.

(CNN) - Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing that the legislation's requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution.

Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asks a judge to block its enforcement.

"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states.

The case was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and joined by 11 other Republican attorneys general, along with one Democrat. McCollum said the new law also forces states "to do things that are practically impossible to do as a practical matter, and forcing us to do it without giving any resources or money to do it."

McCollum's lawsuit was joined by his counterparts in South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Washington. Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed a separate case in his state Tuesday afternoon.

All but one of those state officials, Louisiana's Buddy Caldwell, are Republicans. But McCollum said the case is "not a partisan issue," and predicted other Democrats would join the suit.

"It's a question for most of us in the states of the costs to our people and to the rights and the freedoms of the individual citizens in upholding our constitutional duties as attorneys general," he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that lawyers have advised the administration that "we'll win these lawsuits." And Renee Landers, a law professor at Suffolk University in Massachusetts, said the Constitution gives Congress broad power to regulate commerce and promote the general welfare of Americans.

"If the federal courts follow existing precedents of the United States Supreme Court, I don't think that the claims will be successful," Landers told CNN.

Ryan Wiggins, a spokesman for McCollum, said the case was filed in Pensacola because "we were told that out of all of the places to file in Florida, Pensacola would move the quickest on it."

At least one of the officials who signed onto the lawsuit has run into criticism back home. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, criticized Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna for joining the case and said she would actively oppose the suit.

Separately, legislatures in three dozen states are considering proposed legislation aimed at blocking elements of the health care bill. But Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said the Constitution says laws passed by Congress trump state laws.

"We've got a very conservative Supreme Court, but they're not about to overturn 200 years of Constitutional history and interpretation and declare that the supremacy clause is no longer in effect," Jillson said.

– CNN's Peter Hamby and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    I'd like CNN to keep a running tab on how much this frivolous nonsense ends up costing the American people so we can point to it in order to show just how fiscally responsible the GOP is when it comes to their attempts to obtain and retain power and destroy those they feel are their opposition.

    March 23, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Dave O.

    Ok, fine. THen all those who do not wish to have healthcare should be required to sign a waver declaring they will not seek medical help in the event they become sick or injured. These people don't want to share the cost now, why should we foot their bill later?

    March 23, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. julibear

    so confused. why are we required to have auto insurance? the constitution says nothing about that but we all have it because it is in the public's best interest! Same as long overdue healthcare insurance!

    March 23, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Jim

    Funny, I never heard a Republican complain about being forced to buy car insurance at the state level. If they win this, then I suggest we get rid of the requirement to buy auto insurance as well. Or even better, I suggest we have a public option for those of us who would rather not have to hand money over to a private health insurance company.

    March 23, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  5. Mike

    I would hope the vast majority of states would file and get rid of this nobama screwed up health care "deform law".

    March 23, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  6. Canadian

    What about car insurance? if you own a car, you have to have insurance right? How come this mandatory insurance doesn't violate the Constitution? Can anyone explain?

    March 23, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  7. Sandra South Carolina

    How dare you. Your self centered and arrogant political ambitions have always come before your service to the people who elect you. I live in South Carolina and we need this bill.

    Attorney General of South Carolina, Henry McMasters, look at what you see in the mirror and pray that you see a compassionate human being. Your constituents do not. Stop making our state the laughing stock of our nation or loose your office.

    March 23, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. Po

    I Hope GEORGIA joins the lawsuit also

    March 23, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  9. The Calabash Kid

    We can't be too sure that our Supreme Court won't overturn this legislation. They overturned the 2000 presidential election. The five Republican hacks that are a majority of the court will certainly do as they are expected to do.

    March 23, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. Debbie from AZ

    I'm pretty sure the Constitution doesn't say everyone has to have car insurance either, but that's the law. If it's unconstitutional to mandate health care insurance, is it unconstitutional to mandate car insurance?

    March 23, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  11. Tony L. - Atlanta

    If the states insist on not complying with a federal law, then I think it would be appropriate to throw the Government Public Option back on the table for people choose from if they do not have insurance. For the bill to bring down rising medical cost, it requires everyone to share the cost. If the states remove that provision, then it will be up to the government to ensure costs stay low. That means a public option would be the only viable alternative. Progressives would still win.

    March 23, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. FL Voter

    Curious McCollum did not address this while in Congress in 1993 when 21 fellow Republicans originally co-sponsored the individual mandate for health care.

    GOP mandate – good; same mandate now – bad? And "not" partisan with ALL Republicans in the suit?

    Please. A transparent double standard and waste of our tax dollars.

    March 23, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Steph

    All citizens need to have a social security number and pay social security taxes. Same thing. The republicans are engaging in more parlor games because they could care less about the health of their fellow Americans.

    By the way...check out that stock market.

    March 23, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Tram

    So this means we the people won't be FORCED to have car insurance if we drive a car.

    So this means we the people won't be FORCED to pay ad valorem tax or property tax if we own a car or a home.

    Forced to have health insurance - no, I'm not thrilled about that either but since it's the GOP pitching a temper tantrum and not actually having a legal leg to stand on since they allowed the illegal Patriot Act go through, they really don't have room to speak.

    March 23, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. ib

    I pray they win; this thing is a disaster for senior citizens. Remember in Nov.

    March 23, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. jay1975

    What comes next? Does the government mandate that we all have to buy GM vehicles? For the supporters of this, you do realize that this law means that you have to purchase a good to be a US citizen. What the hell kind of corporate fascism is this? The insurance companies and pharms are happy as all get out; Obama just told the whole country that you have to but their products at their rates. Good one.

    March 23, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. Informed Voter

    What a collosal waste of time and state resources. It only goes to show how polittically motivated these hacks are. Their efforts will be in vain. Future generations will remember President Obama as one the the greats, along with Lincoln, FDR and others who worked hard to do what was right even if it was unpopular (by an ill informed public) at the time.

    March 23, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. WHAT???????????

    "The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage"

    Probably because there was no such thing as "health care coverage" when the constitution was written...duh !!!

    March 23, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    And why exactly are we avoiding any mention of just how many of those 14 AGs are running for governor and who they are? Epic fail CNN, epic fail.

    March 23, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. FL Voter

    McCollum is using our tax dollars to pay a lobbyist law firm he used to work for...a crony coincidence? No.

    March 23, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. Bingo

    The issue at hand is not whether or not federal law trumps state law - it clearly does in those matters over which the Constitution has given authority to the federal government. But the real issue is whether or not the federal law exceeds the authority granted to Congress in the Constitution. In attempting to mandate that individual citizens must purchase a commercial product for no reason other than living within the United States or pay a penalty tax for failure to purchase the product, Congress has exceeded its authority and the Constitution trumps federal law. This provision of the health care bill should and will be ruled unconstitutional.

    March 23, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. JohnM

    How do these people come to the conclusion that by keep insisting this is unconstitutional or that a majority oppose it simply by saying it's so makes it so?

    March 23, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Dean in PA

    Yet more crap from a bunch of sore losers who can't stand to see change that will help millions of our citizens. Shut up and deal with it, already.

    March 23, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. Barbara Independent in NY

    Did these AGs find out what the citizens of their states want? I doubt it. The state AGs are nothing more than party minions. Their states are having financial problems and they choose to waste taxpayer dollars at the whim of the GOP.

    March 23, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Ruth

    It is a shame what the stupid, foolish republicans are doing to this country. We are the laughing stock of the world.

    March 23, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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