The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a brief [text, PDF] with the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] Tuesday asking the court to overturn a December decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] striking down the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3950 text; JURIST news archive]. The government argues that Virginia, as a state, lacked standing to challenge the law [Richmond Times-Dispatch report] since the mandate applies only to individuals. The government then argues that, even if the state did have standing, Congress had the power to pass the law under the Constitution's commerce clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]:
The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate conduct that substantially affects interstate commerce. As Congress found, the means of payment for services in the interstate health care market is economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce. The requirement that participants in the health care market have insurance to pay for the services they consume is thus a quintessential exercise of the commerce power. The regulation furthers two principal economic goals. First, it prevents the substantial cost-shifting in the interstate health care services market that results from the practice of consuming health care without insurance. Second, it is key to the viability of the Act's regulatory requirement that insurers not deny coverage or charge higher premiums because of an individual's medical condition or history.Finally, the government argues that the PPACA could also be upheld under Congress's taxing power. The administration claims that the individual mandate is essential to the PPACA's success. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli [official website] has until late March to file a response. Cuccinelli said he would not comment on the government's brief until he had more time to analyze it. The Fourth Circuit is scheduled to hear the case [materials] in May.
In February, Cuccinelli filed a writ of certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court [official website] seeking an expedited appeal. Cuccinelli announced his intention to appeal directly to the Supreme Court [JURIST report] earlier in the month, citing the exceptionally far-reaching policy implications of the PPACA. There are currently 28 cases challenging the constitutionality of the PPACA. Federal courts in Washington, DC, Virginia and Michigan have upheld the law, while a federal court in Florida [JURIST reports] has also ruled the the individual mandate in unconstitutional, striking down the law in its entirety.