A federal judge ruled Thursday that parts of a lawsuit by 20 states seeking to void the Obama administration’s health care overhaul can go to trial, saying he wants hear additional arguments from both sides over whether the law is unconstitutional.
The historic health care reform was Obama’s biggest domestic priority and remains a divisive issue in next month’s congressional elections.
In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said it needs to be decided whether the plan violates the Constitution by requiring individuals to have health insurance or be penalized through taxes and by overburdening the states by expanding their Medicaid health care programs. Another federal judge in Michigan threw out a similar lawsuit last week.
Vinson set a hearing for Dec. 16. The lawsuits will likely wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum issued a statement praising the ruling as a victory.
He filed the lawsuit just minutes after President Barack Obama signed the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill into law in March. He chose a court in Pensacola, one of Florida’s most conservative cities.
The Obama administration has argued the federal government can require that citizens buy health insurance or face tax penalties under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
The administration’s attorneys had told Vinson last month that without the regulatory power to ensure young and healthy people buy health insurance, the health care plan will not survive. They also argued it’s up to an individual taxpayer – not the states – to challenge the section requiring health insurance when it takes effect in 2015.