News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Are state lawsuits on health care justified?

It may be a reach, but 13 state attorneys general followed President Obama's signing of the health care law with legal action challenging its constitutionality. They contend that it infringes upon Americans' constitutionally protected individual liberties, encroaches upon the states' constitutionally guaranteed sovereignty, forces states to spend billions of additional dollars on entitlement programs, imposes an unconstitutional tax, and violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Whether the quick and bold step changes things or not, we would say this: We find it to be a reasonable argument. We have indicated our disgust with several aspects of the president's health care plan, not to mention the way it was forced through Congress, so our endorsement of the legal action taken by the attorneys general could be seen as sour grapes. On the contrary, we view their concerns as legitimate, and we think some legal wrangling over the plan's constitutionality is justified. — Lufkin (Texas) Daily News editorial

The move by the attorneys general reveals how far into the past America's New Nullifiers want to push the nation. They don't just want to abandon a seven-plus-decade understanding of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause that has allowed the federal government to regulate a modern, national economy. They also want to resurrect states'-rights doctrines discredited by President Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s and buried by the Civil War. It would take a rashly activist court to find the individual mandate unconstitutional because it is structured as a tax. Still, at least the quarrel over the mandate is about something relatively new. The old states'-rights argument, if successful, could upend years of federal legislation. Will we have a system where states can pick and choose among federal laws? — E.J. Dionne, Washington Post