Cuccinelli lawsuit provokes mixed reactions from students

Sarah Sonies

Contributing Writer

In response to the federal health-care legislation signed two weeks ago by President Barack Obama, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to overturn the legislation, which has some VCU students worried, but others relieved.

VCU Young Democrats President Kate Rivara said that she sees the lawsuit Cuccinelli has brought to the federal government, which is formally titled Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius, as a political maneuver without legal merits.

“Many students will graduate and enter their first jobs in small businesses and will benefit from the tax incentives provided in the health care bill,” stated Rivara, an elementary education major, in an e-mail. “This health care bill will regulate and improve health insurance coverage, leading our generation to a future of affordable health care.”

The health-care legislation includes a section that would permit college students and recent college graduates to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26.

According to Rivara, students should pay attention to health care information and the lawsuit because both issues directly affect their quality of life.

“Health care is not a party issue as much as it is an American right … The Republican Party is trying to sell the idea that they will overturn the health care,” Rivara said. “I don’t see it going too far.”

However, some students say the health care legislation will not benefit Virginians and students, and agree that a lawsuit is the most appropriate course of action.

“I believe this current health-care reform legislation is unconstitutional, and that’s what the basis of this lawsuit is about,” said Lee Vogler, a political science major.

Vogler said while he does not currently have health insurance, he does not think the government should tell him that he is required to have it.

“The very idea of this goes against everything America has and should stand for … I love the idea of having health insurance available and affordable for everyone, but this is not the way,” Vogler said.  “Take public schools for example: they are available to everyone, but they are forced upon no one … I’m very much in favor of reforming health care but there are other ways to do it.”

Last week, Virginia Democrats filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting information about the amount of Cuccinelli’s lawsuit because, they said, the lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer money. Cuccinelli released a press release Monday stating the cost of the lawsuit is estimated at only $350.

“The Attorney General of Virginia has a duty to defend all validly enacted Virginia laws from any challenge or unconstitutional encroachment, and that’s what I intend to do with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act,” Cuccinelli stated in the press release.

John Aughenbaugh, a political science and homeland security professor, says Cuccinelli is arguing in Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius that if someone does not want to buy health insurance, the government has gone from regulating people’s actions to their non-actions.

“The basic constitutional underpinning of Cuccinelli’s lawsuit is that Congress is attempting to use its commerce clause authority to regulate activity, which in and of itself is not problematic,” Aughenbaugh said.

However, Aughenbaugh does not believe Virginia will win the lawsuit.

“Will a federal judge or appellate court hear the case? Yes. Do I think they will win? No,” Aughenbaugh said. “Not because I think they don’t have merit, but the trend since the late 1930s and 1940s is that the federal courts have given Congress broad authority to regulate interstate commerce.”

Vipul Tripathi, a mass communications major, said he is worried about the image that lawsuit is putting on Virginia and its college students.

“As a student in Virginia, (the lawsuit) is putting Virginia in a sticky situation,” Tripathi said. “We are suing the federal government. I don’t really like the image it is putting on Virginia college students. The health care bill is the best bill we have seen … It’s pretty important”

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Notable Terms

Interstate commerce – Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the federal government according to powers spelled out in Article I of the Constitution.

Freedom of Information Act – Laws which set rules on access to information or records held by government bodies. In general, such laws define a legal process by which government information is required to be available to the public.

Commerce clause – The provision of the U.S. Constitution that gives Congress exclusive power over trade activities among the states and with foreign countries and Indian tribes.

Information provided by thefreedictionary.com.

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