There was immediate reaction from Virginia elected officials as well as bloggers and others who have followed this case from the beginning.
Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who filed the lawsuit immediately after taking office in 2010, expressed disappointment in the decision and released the following press release:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli responded today to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Virginia's lawsuit against the federal government's health care reform act.Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell also expressed disappointment with the ruling:
"Obviously, we are disappointed in the ruling. Our disappointment not only stems from the fact that the court ruled against us, but also that the court did not even reach the merits on the key question of Virginia's lawsuit-whether Congress has a power never before recognized in American history: the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another citizen," said Cuccinelli.
In summarizing the ruling, Cuccinelli noted that, by resting its decision on an alleged lack of standing by the commonwealth to even bring its lawsuit, the court dismissed Virginia's claimed injury as illusory.
"Contrary to the court's suggestion, this suit has always been about vindicating the power of the Virginia General Assembly to legislate about a subject that has historically been viewed as falling within the areas the Constitution left to the states. Health, safety, and welfare issues have long been recognized as being part of the powers reserved to the states by the Constitution," Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli noted that the court's stated reasons placed the ruling's reasoning at odds with constitutional design. "In rejecting Virginia's right to bring the action, the court said that allowing such suits would allow the states to serve as 'roving constitutional watchdogs.' This was exactly a role that the Founding Fathers planned for the states to have. As James Madison wrote, under the Constitution, 'the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments...Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments [state and federal] will control each other...'"
Cuccinelli continued, "Not only does the court's opinion reject the role of the states envisioned by the Constitution, it dismisses an act of the Virginia General Assembly-the Health Care Freedom Act-as a mere pretense or pretext. It is unfortunate that the court would be so dismissive of a piece of legislation that passed both houses of a divided legislature by overwhelming margins with broad, bipartisan support."
Cuccinelli vowed to appeal the court's ruling.
Today President Barack Obama and one by former President Bill Clinton, found that Virginia lacks standing to challenge the individual mandate provision of the federal health care law. We respectfully disagree with the panel’s reasoning. To conclude that a state has no standing to challenge an expensive and burdensome federal mandate on its citizens that the state has banned in its law, might cause James Madison and George Mason, Virginia’s principal drafters of our nation’s founding documents, to promptly roll in their graves. To dismiss a Virginia statute as a basis for standing, declaring it to be ‘quintessentially political,’ and asserting that a state cannot be a ‘constitutional watchdog’ undermines our precious principles of federalism. This decision must be promptly appealed.
“As federal courts across the country continue to come to differing conclusions on the merits of cases arguing the unconstitutionality of the federal health care law, today’s decision further exemplifies why these cases should be expedited to the nation’s highest court. It is the Supreme Court that will ultimately determine whether the federal mandate on every citizen to purchase health insurance violates the U.S. Constitution. States and businesses continue to expend time and money and languish in uncertainty as they try to come into compliance with a law that may ultimately be ruled unconstitutional. It is exasperating that the President and the Justice Department oppose a prompt resolution of this case through an expedited appeal. America needs finality in this case.”