Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA – Elected officials from 20 states challenging portions of the federal health care bill today filed a response to the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss their lawsuit, on the heels of a decision earlier this week by a Virginia judge to reject the federal government’s motion to dismiss that state’s health care lawsuit.

“When the chief legal officers and governors representing 40 percent of the states raise questions about the constitutionality of parts of a sweeping new law, those questions shouldn’t be dismissed – they should be thoughtfully considered by the courts,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “The same Constitution that gives us free speech and freedom of religion includes protections of individual rights, restrictions on unlawful taxes and limits on federal power. Those liberties are worth defending.”

The lawsuit, also joined by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and two private citizens, alleges that the health care bill passed in February exceeds the powers granted to the federal government under the United States Constitution. According to the suit, it violates Article I of the Constitution by mandating that every citizen have qualifying health care coverage or pays a penalty, though the Commerce Clause has never been applied to compel people to buy a specific item. The financial penalty, if considered a tax, is also an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.

The lawsuit also claims the health care law infringes on state sovereignty and violates the Tenth Amendment by imposing burdensome new operating rules that states must follow, as well as requiring states to spend billions to implement the new law.

The Department of Justice filed a motion in June to dismiss the case, claiming the individual mandate fell under Congress’ “taxing and spending” authority – even though President Barack Obama had previously argued on national television that the insurance mandate was “absolutely not” a tax. The motion also claimed the lawsuit was premature, as much of the new law has not taken effect. However, the states say that resources are already being spent to comply with the law.

It is projected that, under the new law, Washington state will be forced to broaden its Medicaid eligibility standards to accommodate as many as 360,000 more enrollees. Medicaid already consumes more than 20 percent of the Washington state budget.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on March 23. A hearing on subjects raised by the dismissal motion will be held September 14 in Pensacola, Fla. More information about the health care lawsuit can be found online at /2010healthcarelawsuit.aspx.


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725