N. Dakota joins federal suit against ‘objectionable’ health mandate


North Dakota’s attorney general announced he will join 14 of his colleagues across the nation in challenging the constitutionality of recently enacted federal health reform.

Wayne Stenehjem

Wayne Stenehjem said his state is joining the suit, filed in the Federal District Court in the Northern District of Florida, naming the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor as defendants. Those agencies are tasked with implementing the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The suit, similar to one filed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, calls into question an individual mandate to secure private insurance by 2014 with the threat of fines for failure to comply. The federal government requiring such a purchase, the attorneys general argue, is a direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

“Even the supporters of the legislation concede it contains serious flaws,” Stenehjem said in a statement. “This lawsuit will test the most objectionable of those flaws, the so-called individual mandate.”

The Commerce Clause in the Constitution gives Congress authority to regulate commerce among states, but the suit claims with the individual mandate, legislators are overstepping their boundaries.

“The U.S. Constitution grants enumerated and limited authority to the federal government,” Stenehjem said. “It may only act in areas that are specifically permitted. In enacting this legislation, Congress stretches its authority under the commerce clause beyond the limit.”

North Dakota’s attorney general called the individual mandate “unprecedented” as Congress, under the Commerce Clause, has never required Americans to purchase a particular good or service, “and it certainly has never claimed the commerce clause regulates citizens who decline to participate in the marketplace by refusing to purchase goods or services.”

North Dakota joins the following states in the federal suit:  Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

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