Below is the news release issued by the Office of the Attorney General regarding today's hearing on the federal government's motion to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit against the health care law. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli emphasized and elaborated on the quotes below at his post-hearing news conference, which you can see here.

Virginia defends health care lawsuit for first time in court this morning; Federal judge heard feds’ Motion to Dismiss

- Feds say individual insurance mandate is a tax -

Richmond (July 1, 2010) - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and his legal team made their first defense of Virginia’s lawsuit against the federal government’s new health care act this morning. Federal district court judge Henry E. Hudson listened to Virginia’s and the federal government’s arguments on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s motion to dismiss the suit.

The federal government argued that Virginia lacks the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature, and that the federal government has the power under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause to mandate that citizens must be covered by health insurance or pay a civil penalty. The government also made alternative arguments based upon its taxing power and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

“If the government prevails and Congress may use the Commerce Clause to order Americans to buy private health insurance, then Congress will have been granted a virtually unlimited power to order you to buy anything. That would amount to the end of federalism and our more than 220 years of constitutional government,” Cuccinelli said following the hearing.

Part of the commonwealth’s argument in court was that “the government can’t draft an unwilling citizen into commerce just so it can regulate him under the Commerce Clause.” E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., Solicitor General of Virginia, argued on behalf of the Commonwealth.

When questioned by the judge whether the individual insurance mandate was a tax or a penalty, the attorney for the federal government said it was both, even though members of Congress specifically said they did not pass it as a tax, and President Obama has stated it was not a tax, to appear to keep the president’s promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.

“One mile from the U.S. courthouse where we just argued this case is St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ speech. So it’s fitting that in that courtroom today, just one mile down the road, we were fighting the greatest erosion of our liberty since our country’s founding,” said the attorney general.