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Appeals court: Is health-care reform like broccoli?

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Obama's health care law at the Fourth Circuit

Opponents of the law say the mandate exceeds Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and marks the first time the government has ordered US citizens to purchase a particular product or service.

Supporters of the law say the mandate is an essential feature of a comprehensive program designed to lower health care costs nationwide.

During more than two hours of argument at the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawyers and judges sparred over fundamental points of constitutional law. Comparisons were drawn to earlier Supreme Court precedents endorsing federal power to dictate the home consumption of wheat on a family farm and to outlaw the private use of home-grown medical marijuana.

If the sweep of federal regulatory power extends to those areas, Katyal argued, it also encompasses a comprehensive effort to reform the national health insurance market.

The two cases heard by the appeals court stem from decisions by federal courts in Virginia. In the case filed by Liberty University, a federal judge upheld the law’s constitutionality. In the other suit, filed by Mr. Cuccinelli on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a different federal judge struck it down.

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