The U.S. Justice Department officially responded to a legal challenge against the federal health-care overhaul Wednesday and called on a federal judge to dismiss the case.
Twenty attorneys general, led by Republican Bill McCollum of Florida, filed suit against the federal government immediately after President Obama’s health-care overhaul became law in March. The attorneys generals are questioning the constitutionality of the law, claiming that Congress does not have the power to require that all Americans purchase health insurance.
The federal health-care law requires that all legal U.S. residents be insured or else pay a penalty — beginning in 2014 — that fines individuals $695 annually or up to 2.5% of their income.
In its defense of the law, the Justice Department invoked the Commerce Clause and claimed penalties for Americans without health-care coverage were consistent with the federal government’s powers to regulate interstate commerce and impose taxes.
The Justice Department filing describes the penalty as a tax, stating that the law “imposes a tax on the choice of a method to finance the future costs of one’s health care.”
McCollum responded to the Justice Department filings Thursday, claiming that the government’s response contradicted the comments that President Obama made during the health-care debate earlier this year.
“The Justice Department’s defenses clash directly with comments made by President Obama during the debate on the health care reform bill, including the President’s insistence on national television that the purchase mandate was absolutely not a tax. Yet in its motion to dismiss, the Obama administration defends the individual mandate under Congress’ ‘taxing and spending’ power,” said McCollum in a press statement.
WATCH OBAMA SAY HEALTH-CARE REFORM MANDATE NOT A TAX
“Our lawsuit challenges the individual mandate that violates the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the federal government is threatening our state sovereignty with this unprecedented expansion of federal powers and commandeering of state resources,” McCollum continued. “This is not acceptable, and we will pursue this litigation as far as necessary to obtain relief for our citizens and our states.”
Hearings on the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit will begin Sept. 14.