Lawsuits a Sign Health Care Battle Not Over

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Adrienne S. Gaines

A spate of lawsuits filed Tuesday show signs that the health care reform battle is far from over.

Just minutes after President Obama signed the controversial
bill into law, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum submitted a lawsuit on
behalf of his and 12 other states challenging the constitutionality of the
health reform law because it requires Americans to buy health insurance or face
stiff penalties.

Photo:  Floriday Attorney General Bill McCollum

“This bipartisan effort by attorneys general around the
country should put the federal government on notice that we will not tolerate
the constitutional rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of our states to
be trampled on,” said McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor who
also claims the health bill will cripple his state financially.

The attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas,
Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Alabama, Idaho, Washington, Colorado
and South Dakota joined in the Florida lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District
Court in Pensacola.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II filed a separate
lawsuit Tuesday, arguing that the health bill conflicts with a state law
enacted this month that says residents will not be required to “maintain or
obtain” personal health insurance coverage. He argues that the state law
creates an “immediate, actual controversy” between state and federal
law that gives Virginia unique standing to file a lawsuit.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Christian
legal firm based in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday that it would file
amicus briefs to support those states.

“The individual mandate-forcing Americans to purchase health
insurance under penalty of law-violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S.
Constitution,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “Most Americans do
not want this plan. That includes millions of pro-life Americans who don’t want
to be forced to purchase a health care package that funds abortion. This health
care law should not be forced upon the American people. We believe the courts
will agree.”

Meanwhile, the Christian legal firm Liberty Counsel filed a
federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Liberty University that challenges the new
health care legislation. The suit claims the Lynchburg, Va., university may
face hefty costs under the new law because it currently self-insures its 5,100

“Forcing health insurance on every person and employer is a
stunning example of arbitrary power the Constitution does not give to federal
bureaucrats,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of
Liberty University’s law school. “In passing this law, President Obama and the
Democratic Congress acted like the Constitution does not exist. But one day,
the Supreme Court justices will have their own captive audience and this brazen
illegal power grab will come to an end.”

Virginia delegate Kathy Byron and Lynchburg City Councilman
Jeff Helgeson have joined the Liberty University lawsuit as plaintiffs. U.S.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder are named as defendants in the action because of their role in
overseeing the new regulations in the health care law.

The ACLJ also plans to file federal lawsuits on behalf of
its individual members nationwide. “These legal challenges will be numerous and
occur in many jurisdictions,” Sekulow said. “The constitutional issues at stake
are significant, and it’s likely this will end up before the Supreme Court of
the United States.”

The Justice Department issued a statement Tuesday, saying it
would “vigorously defend” the constitutionality of the law. “We are
confident that this statute is constitutional and we will prevail when we defend
it in court,” the statement said.

In addition to the state lawsuits, legislatures in at least
36 states have proposed measures to challenge the constitutionality of the new
bill, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-nine states
also are calling for ballot questions to amend their constitutions to keep
residents from having to buy insurance or face fines.

Some conservative groups that opposed the health reform bill
are still hoping it will fall apart while the Senate debates the “fixes”
included in the reconciliation bill. The Senate needs 51 votes to pass the
reconciliation measure, and observers say it is unlikely that the legislation
would be derailed.

But opponents of the health reform law are looking toward
November, and some are already lobbying to unseat members of Congress who
supported the health care package.

“Congress voted on ObamaCare this past Sunday night and made
a bad decision,” American Family Association President Tim Wildmon wrote in an
e-mail to supporters Tuesday. “But there’s going to be another vote in November. And
this time, you’ll get to vote on the direction the current Congress is taking
our nation.”

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