Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), the first attorney generalin the nation to file a lawsuit over President Obama’s health-care overhaul, said the sky was pretty much falling in a news release issued half an hour after the court upheld the law.
“This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law,” Cuccinelli said in the release. “This is a dark day for American liberty.”
By the time he held a news conference an hour and 45 minutes later, Cuccinelli had different take: “It’s mostly sunny.”
The reason? His first impression was based on the basic upshot of the ruling: The court had upheld “Obamacare.” His second was based on a closer look at the ruling, which he found upheld individual liberty and curbed federal power even as it left the law in place.
The court ruled that Americans could be required to secure health insurance, but under Congress’s taxing authority, not under the Constitution’s commerce clause. That means the “individual mandate” has been deemed a tax — a tax Cuccinelli still finds objectionable as a matter of policy, but not one that raises Constitutional questions about compelling people to buy something against their will.
The court also ruled that the government cannot withdraw existing Medicaid funding from states that opt against a big expansion of Medicaid eligibility.
“I’m more of an idealist than most people,” Cuccinelli said. “I look at a lot of the long term, foundational first principles pieces of this and on that we did very well. But the first blush is, ‘Is the law up or down?’ And the way they kept it up was frankly a bit surprising.
“They preserved our first principles protections, our individual liberty protections. They advanced state sovereignty, strangely enough, while keeping the law. That was not one of the combinations that were even in our top five. That permutation was one that we didn’t spend a lot of time thinking was a likely outcome. But here we are. That’s the one we’ve got.”
“They’ve turned this whole thing into a spending and regulation question with this ruling. The individual liberty pieces were preserved and states got strengthened here in the constitutional structure under this ruling.”
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