UPDATE (1:15 p.m.): Just returned from Attorney General Cuccinelli's news conference and he's a bit less pessimistic than his initial statement (see below). In fact, he said, if he was told at the beginning of this legal process that this would be the decision, that he would take it. He said the first priority of his lawsuit was to limit the Congress' power under the commerce clause, which the court did with a 5-4 vote. It also limited the federal government's power to coerce states into new programs (in this case, the expansion of Medicaid) by a 7-2 vote. What was held in place was a policy decision that he said should always be left with the legislature, and he's glad to have an election over what is now a tax on the middle class, which the president said he would never do. He said this is the first halt of federal power over states since the New Deal and 100 years from now, under this decision, those restraints on the federal government will remain in place. Still, we know the AG can't be happy. Upholding the power to coerce through a tax (especially a tax that is not a tax) is still the federal government forcing individuals into doing (buying) something, whereas the taxing authority was always meant to be limited to the raising of revenue for the functions of government. What good is protecting the commerce clause when Congress can get around it by taxing inactivity? What's the difference? The entire idea was that the commerce clause was being used in an unprecedented way to force people into an activity. We're finding it difficult to understand any significant difference. Regarding the rumors that Chief Justice John Roberts felt pressure or an obligation to preserve the court from a politically divisive decision, that's why they have lifetime appointments, and there have been numerous decisions more "divisive" than this issue has been and the court has survived quite well.
Here are the official statements issued within the last several minutes by Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on the just announced Obamacare ruling by the United States Supreme Court.
Governor Bob McDonnell:
Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses, and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.
Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli:
This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty.
This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government.
This unprecedented decision says that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy private goods or face fines - a power it has never had in American history, and a power King George III and Parliament didn't have over us when we were mere subjects of Great Britain. Since the federal government itself could never articulate to the court a constitutional limit to this power, Congress has gained an unlimited power to force citizens to buy anything.
I am disappointed with the court's ruling and with the unprecedented attack on American liberty the president and the previous Congress have created with this law.
We are currently reading the decision and I will have more comment at the news conference at noon.