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Va. judge strikes down key part of federal health-care law

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A Virginia judge ruled Monday that the federal health-care law’s mandate for health insurance is unconstitutional, and Gov. Bob McDonnell wants any appeals to be fast-tracked to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Both sides should seek to waive a hearing in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and allow this monumental case to move immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court for prompt final resolution,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Henry E. Hudson, a judge in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled that the portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty is not protected under the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution. Virginia, led by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, challenged the federal legislation. A decision on another legal challenge to the health-care law, signed by 19 states, has not been decicded yet.

While Hudson’s ruling sided with Virginia’s challenge, he did not provide injunctive relief because the individual mandate provision is not effective under the federal law until 2014. It is highly expected that the Obama administration will appeal the ruling. McDonnell wants this to bypass a hearing in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court.

“To encourage such a decision, I have asked all governors and governors-elect to join me in a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder asking for his agreement to an expedited review,” McDonnell said in a statement. “There must be certainty and finality in order for our businesses and citizens to both know and adhere to the law.”

Republican Whip and soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released a statement, saying he wasn’t surprised by Hudson’s ruling.  He agreed that the case should be sent directly to the Supreme Court “... so that Americans — especially job creators — can be spared years of litigation at a time of great uncertainty.”

Cantor added that three key pillars of Obamacare have crumbled: the support of the American public, the cost argument and its constitutionality. “When something isn’t working, there is never any shame in starting over. The majority of Americans are asking that we start over on health-care reform, and that is why the new Republican House in January will pass a clean repeal of Obamacare.” 

Cantor of Henrico County becomes majority leader of the 112th Congress in January.

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