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Texas, 20 Other States Support Missouri Health-Law Challenge

July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and officials from 20 other states filed court papers supporting a Missouri challenge to the Obama administration’s health-care reform law, his office said in a statement today.

Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and six state residents sued U.S. officials last July claiming the law is unconstitutional because it requires people to buy health insurance. U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel dismissed the case in April and Kinder appealed.

Abbott and officials from other states filed a brief yesterday asking the federal appeals court in St. Louis to reinstate the lawsuit. The states claim that the mandatory insurance provision of the health-care law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“By attempting to compel people to participate in commerce, the individual mandate far exceeds the federal government’s Commerce Clause authority to regulate commerce,” the states said in the brief. “Sanctioning such a power would eliminate all meaningful limits on Congress’s authority and sound the death knell for our constitutional structure and individual liberties.”

The lawsuit is one of multiple challenges to the health-care reform law, including a separate lawsuit filed in Florida by that state’s attorney general and joined by the 20 other states supporting the Missouri appeal. U.S. District Judge C. Roger Vinson found in that case that Congress exceeded its power in requiring that almost every American obtain insurance starting in 2014. Vinson’s decision has been appealed.

Law Upheld

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling on June 29, became the first appellate panel to rule in favor of the law. The court affirmed a Detroit federal judge’s decision last year to throw out a challenge by the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, a Christian-based public interest law firm.

The states that joined Texas in the amicus brief for the Missouri suit are Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Two cases filed in Virginia are also under appeal. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on May 10 heard the Obama administration’s challenge to a lower court ruling that found, in a lawsuit brought by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson left the rest of the act standing.

The Richmond panel also heard an appeal by Lynchburg, Virginia-based Liberty University, which sought to reverse Judge Norman K. Moon’s dismissal of its challenge to the law.

The Missouri case is Kinder v. Geithner, 1:10-cv-00201, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis); the appeal is Kinder v. Geithner, 11-1973, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit (St. Louis).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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