Cuccinelli comes out swinging, vows to file lawsuit to challenge health-care bill

By Rosalind Helderman
Monday, March 22, 2010; 11:13 AM

To emphasize how ready Virginia is to take the health care overhaul to court, take a look at this tweet from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli this morning:

"Well, they did it. Once the president signs it into law, we'll walk across the street and file suit b/c the ind mandate is unconstitutional"

We eagerly await a look at the filings penned by Cuccinelli's office. But in a lengthy interview on the topic late last week, Cucccinelli indicated he would argue -- as his tweet suggests -- that requiring individuals to purchase health care exceeds the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce.

He also said that requiring states to participate in a health insurance exchange, as envisioned by the bill, violates state sovereignty.

Cuccinelli said then that he was getting "overwhelmingly positive" e-mails and calls in response to his forcefulness on the issue. It's also made him something of a national voice of pushback from states on the bill -- he's been all over national cable news since last week.

"We'll see how it plays out. Whether [response to] a lawsuit is positive or not isn't terribly relevant. What matters is if you're right on the law. Ultimately, a court will decide if they press ahead. I think we have a very strong case," he said.

He said he was "perfectly sensitive to the notion" that public sentiment can change over time.

"That hasn't been a basis for our decision. As it hasn't been on some other things," he said chuckling, a reference to the uproar sparked when he sent letters recently to Virginia's colleges and universities informing them it was his legal opinion campus nondiscrimination policies could not legally include reference to sexual orientation.

"An attorney general who held my position and had done the legal research we've done could just do nothing and lament the process. If you do something -- and I didn't get elected not to do something -- you have to act consistently with your legal conclusions. My first obligation is to defend the constitution of the United States and of Virginia," he said.

"We have tried to make it clear before hand what we anticipated we would do. We're not trying to sandbag anybody. And it's not like I'm unique in the United States of America. There are other attorneys general who are talking about this."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company