Obama signs health care bill, Republicans sign court filings

OBAMA SIGNS HEALTH CARE BILL, REPUBLICANS SIGN COURT FILINGS…. At a festive, joyous White House ceremony, President Barack Obama did what millions of Americans have been waiting to see for generations: he signed a comprehensive health care reform bill into law.

Before the ink on the page was dry, some Republican state attorneys general put their own signatures on something: litigation.

As President Obama celebrated his health-care victory, Republican leaders in several states vowed Monday to challenge the landmark legislation in court, arguing that the new federal rules are unconstitutional violations of state sovereignty and individual liberty.

Scholars contend the merit of such claims is unproven at best, given constitutional provisions and legal precedents that grant wide latitude to Congress to regulate national affairs. But the declarations foretell a period of court battles and statehouse resistance after months of opposition to the legislation.

It appears that there will be more than one lawsuit. Virginia’s right-wing AG, Ken Cuccinelli (R), vowed to be in court today at noon, challenging the legality of the individual mandate. Florida AG Bill McCollum (R), perhaps best known as a leading “manager” in the impeachment crusade against President Bill Clinton, is filing a separate case on the constitutionality of taxes in the new law. McCollum, who is running for governor this year, will apparently be leading a group* of far-right state attorneys general in the endeavor.

Are the suits cause for concern for supporters of the new law? Courts are obviously unpredictable, but serious observers seem to think the litigation is pointless and misguided.

[C]onstitutional scholars suggest that such cases would likely amount to no more than a speed bump for health care legislation.

The reason, they say, is that Congress has framed the mandate as a tax, which it has well-established powers to create. And Congress’s sweeping authority to regulate the nation’s economy, they add, has been clear since the 1930s.

“The attack on this bill,” said Jack M. Balkin, a professor of constitutional law at Yale University, “is not merely an attack on the substance of this particular measure. It’s also a challenge to understandings that come with the New Deal.”

Dave Weigel also has a good piece on this today, which is worth reading.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Republican AGs filing the suits don’t even expect to win. This is about putting on a show for Fox News and the Republican base, and letting ambitious GOP officials score a few points with rabid activists who are desperate for Republicans to do something, whether it makes sense or not.

But in the meantime, an Ezra Klein observation bears repeating: “[L]et me propose a new rule: No conservative who supports these legal challenges can complain about activist judges ever again.”

* Update: McCollum’s group apparently includes 13 state AGs — 12 Republican and one Dem, Louisiana’s Buddy Caldwell.