A federal appeals court unanimously struck down a Virginia challenge to the federal health care act Thursday, ruling that the state does not have standing in the case.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s decision declaring the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act unconstitutional. The judges did not rule on the constitutionality of insurance mandates, but instead asserted that Virginia Health Care Freedom Act does not create a conflict allowing the state to challenge the PPACA in federal court.
Virginia brought suit on the basis that its statute clashed with the federal act, giving the state standing to challenge in federal court. Virginiaâ€™s case rested on the Tenth Amendment, arguing that theÂ insurance mandate requirement, contrary to provisions in the state’s health care freedom act, represents an overreach of federal authority. Virginia argues that the federal individual mandate causes the state â€œsovereign injury.â€
The Appeals Court ruled that a state canâ€™t sue the federal government on behalf of its citizens. (Massachusetts v. Mellon 1923)
This prohibition rests on the recognition that a state poses no legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from the government of the United States. With the respect to the federal governmentâ€™s relationship to individual citizens, “It is the United States, and not the State, which represents [citizens] as parens patriae.” When a state brings suit seeking to protect individuals from a federal statute, it usurps this sovereign prerogative of the federal government and threatens the â€˜general supremacyâ€™ of the law.
The appellate judges concludes, “The individual mandate in the health care law does not affect Virginia’s ability to enforce VHCFA Rather, the Constitution itself withholds from Virginia the power to enforce VHCFA against the federal government.”
James Madison did not agree with the Courtâ€™s assessment. In fact, he said that a state has a duty to protect its citizens.
â€œIn case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.â€
Not one option among many. Not just a good idea. Duty Bound.
“This was exactly a role that the Founding Fathers planned for the states to have,” Virginia AG Cuccinelli said.
The Appeals Court goes on to assert a state does not have the authority to nullify federal law.
The VHCFA regulates nothing and provides for the administration of no state program. Instead, it simply purports to immunize Virginia citizens from federal law. In doing so, the VHCFA reflects no exercise of â€œsovereign power,â€ for Virginia lacks the sovereign authority to nullify federal law.
Notice the Catch-22 the Court creates. In arguing the supremacy of federal law, the ruling presupposes the constitutionality of the PPACA. Logically, an unconstitutional act would not stand the test of supremacy. It would, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, be â€œaltogether void, and of no force.â€
But Virginia canâ€™t challenge the constitutionality of the law because it lacks standing. Why? Because federal law stands supreme.
Round and round we go.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling illustrates the absurdity of relying on courts and lawsuits to stop the implementation to the federal health care act. Expecting a branch of the federal government to protect the interests of the states and the people against the federal government makes about as much sense as someone trusting my mother to fairly resolve a conflict between us.
Itâ€™s not just about insurance mandates. The federal government has no constitutional authority to implement a health care plan.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Health care rightly remains a sphere left to the states respectively and the people.
That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes â€” delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.
Itâ€™s time for state government to stand up and do their duty.