AGs power through DoJ's motion to dismiss reform lawsuit

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The federal government's lawsuit over the new healthcare reform bill evolved into a war of words last week when the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed its motion to dismiss the constitutional challenges against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought by 20 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and individuals affected by the mandate to adopt healthcare insurance.

The DoJ’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit demonstrates that the federal government views the lawsuit as a serious threat and challenge, according to Attorneys General (AG) Bill McCollum of Florida and Rob McKenna of Washington, responding to the motion.

The lawsuit, originally filed on March 23 by 13 states and amended on May 14 to add seven additional states, alleges that the new legislation infringes upon the constitutional rights of individuals by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying healthcare coverage or pay a tax penalty.

In the motion to dismiss, filed June 16, the DoJ stated that under any plausible interpretation, the penalty is not a direct tax.

“[There] is no sensible basis to claim that the minimum coverage provision imposes taxes on property, real or personal,” stated the DoJ. “It is not tied to the value of the individual’s property. It instead imposes a tax on the choice of a method to finance the future costs of one’s healthcare. … A tax predicated on a decision, as opposed to a tax on property, has always been understood to be indirect.”

"Nothing in the Justice Department's motion filed changes the states' view that we will prevail,” stated McCollum. “Instead, [DoJ's] defenses clash directly with comments made by President Obama during the debate on the healthcare reform bill, including the President's insistence on national television that the purchase mandate was absolutely not a tax. Yet in its motion to dismiss, the Obama Administration defends the individual mandate under Congress' ‘taxing and spending' power.’”

“While we all agree that people should have access to affordable, quality healthcare, healthcare reform is too important to build on an unconstitutional foundation and the states plan to pursue this litigation as far as necessary to obtain relief for our citizens and our states," stated McKenna.