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

States sue to block health care bill

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption ="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. TA

    Wow!! such short term memory........let's ask former republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney if mandates and penalties on health insurance is constitutional.

    Suuuure it is not a partisan issue, just look at the states filing the lawsuit....they are all red states including the ones that flipped blue in 08 election like VA and CO.

    But I must give credit to the attorney generals...I thought they were completely useless when they ignored the constitution when it came to a president lying to congress, invading privacy by wire-tapping Americans, and covering it up by firing white house attorneys. With this lawsuit it shows they can do something about it if they stupidly believe in it enough.

    March 23, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  2. lovable liberal

    I thought Republicans didn't like activist judges.

    March 23, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. Pragmatic

    I thought the republicans were against silly lawsuits? Now its wasting taxpayer time – waste of taxpayer dollars to sue for an issue that was settled by President Andrew Jackson. SC thought then that they could pick and choose which federal laws they wanted to ... its called "nullification" ... for a party that lives in the past – they certainly don't learn from it!

    "We must repeal," the GOP leader argued. "The Republican Party is pledged to do this."

    That was Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon in a September 1936 campaign speech. He based his bid for the White House on repealing Social Security... and how did that work?

    March 23, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  4. jeff

    Imagine that standing up for your states. I guess maybe Obama will make them all work for him like the car dealers and the banks and the insurance companies but hey lets talk to IRAN maybe we can learn something

    March 23, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  5. Mark-Virginia

    "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,"

    Yeah sure..just like they would NEVER intefere with a federal election (Gore-Bush)

    March 23, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  6. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    Way to waste moretax payers money!

    March 23, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
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