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Judge refuses to block Virginia challenge to health-care reform

Obama administration lawyers asked a federal judge to dismiss a Virginia lawsuit against federal health-care reform. But the judge cleared the way for an October hearing.

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A federal judge in Richmond, Va, refused on Monday to throw out a lawsuit filed by the Virginia attorney general challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care reform law.

The ruling is the first decision in what may be years of litigation over the question of whether Congress has the power to regulate – and tax – a citizen’s decision not to buy health insurance.

US District Judge Henry Hudson said that neither the US Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals had squarely addressed that question. Existing legal precedents are inconclusive, he said.

“Given the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side’s position, this court cannot conclude at this stage that the complaint fails to state a cause of action,” Judge Hudson wrote in a 32-page opinion.

The action came in response to a request by Justice Department lawyers that the Virginia lawsuit be dismissed. The ruling clears the way for an Oct. 18 federal court hearing in Richmond on whether the national health care law complies with requirements of the Constitution or exceeds the powers granted to Congress.

“This lawsuit is not about health care, it’s about our freedom,” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. “The government cannot draft an unwilling citizen into commerce just so it can regulate him under the commerce clause.”

The Obama health care plan requires Americans to purchase private health insurance at a certain level of coverage or pay a penalty or tax for their refusal.


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