ByÂ JENNIFER HABERKORN, Politico
A federal appeals court on Thursday threw out two challenges to President Barack Obama’sÂ health care overhaul on procedural grounds.
Delivering a two-pronged win to the Obama administration, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said VirginiaÂ has no right to challenge the lawâ€™s requirement that nearly all Americans buy insurance. The court also said that Liberty University couldnâ€™t challenge the law before the mandate goes into effect.
The legal victories might not provide the administration with much political ammunition against the lawâ€™sÂ critics, though, since the rulings didnâ€™t focus on the merits of the law. And the lawâ€™s opponents can play down the impact of the rulings, since the judges were all appointed by Democratic presidents â€” including two nominated by Obama.
The 4th Circuit issued by the side-by-side rulings in response to separate lawsuits brought by Virginia and the conservative Liberty University. Both cases challenged that the health lawâ€™s requirement that nearly all Americans have to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.
The court said Virginia had no right to bring its lawsuit because â€œthe sole provision challenged here â€” the individual mandate â€” imposes no obligationsâ€ on the state itself.
In the case of Liberty University,Â the court said the legal challenge had come too soon: â€œBecause this suit constitutes a pre-enforcement action seeking to restrain the assessment of a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act strips us of jurisdiction. Accordingly, we must vacate the judgment of the district court and remand the case with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.â€
The 4th Circuit is the first court to side with the administrationâ€™s legal argument that the mandateâ€™s penalty is a tax.
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