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Cuccinelli reconsiders, says health care ruling actually a victory for states’ rights
In the first blush of reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding most areas of the federal health care bill today, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — an ardent opponent of the health care law — called it “a dark day for American liberty.”
But after he had time to read the full document, Cuccinelli said he feels the ruling is a victory for states’ rights.
“It is a mixed result today, but on principles and on the law, we won,” Cuccinelli told reporters at a press conference in Richmond. “I’m ok with the outcome. …. We have succeeded in preserving individual liberty, even if we have not won the policy battles.”
Cuccinelli approves of the court’s ruling that the federal government cannot compel states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding federal money. That, he said, is a big deal and puts new restrictions on Congress’ powers to force states into federal programs.
“This argument sits there as a check on federal spending power,” he said.
He also was surprised by, but not opposed to, the court’s interpretation of the financial penalty for individuals who don’t buy health insurance. The court said it’s a tax, and Cuccinelli thinks that will prevent politicians in the future from enacting legislation that has financial repercussions that could be called a tax.
“There’ll be no playing of this ‘this is a tax, this is not a tax’ scheme,” Cuccinelli said. “If the health care bill were deemed a tax (originally), it would never have passed.”
The portion of the ruling that prevents Congress from withholding Medicaid money if states don’t expand the program could save Virginia millions, Cuccinelli said, if the state chooses not to expand Medicaid.
Rising Medicaid costs have been a big drive of state budget increases in recent years, and Cuccinelli said he doubts Virginia lawmakers will want to add millions of dollars to the program.
Cuccinelli said he still opposes the actual policy of the health care law, and that he expects it to have political ramifications this fall.
Typically, he said, a major court decision like this provides more motivation to the side that lost.
“On balance, it’s going to help those who are more conservative,” Cuccinelli said.
– Chelyen Davis