Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration has launched its first legal defense of the new health care law, insisting the federal government has the power to force citizens to have health insurance.
"The health care industry operates in interstate commerce and there is a long recognized federal interest in its regulation," said a legal brief filed in federal court in Detroit, Michigan, by the Justice Department.
The government response was made in a lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based law firm involved in conservative issues. The case names President Barack Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder as defendants.
The government also argues that apart from the constitutional merits, an injunction to block the law from being implemented should not be granted because the provision requiring insurance coverage does not go into effect until January 1, 2014.
Legal briefs similar to the 46-page document filed in Detroit are likely to begin appearing in other federal courts where the law is under attack for requiring every citizen to purchase health insurance.
Several state governments have joined a lawsuit filed in Florida that makes similar claims - that Congress lacks the authority to mandate individuals to participate in an insurance plan. Many states have also challenged the federal requirement for states to extend coverage to more low-income residents without funding the additional cost.