White House Spokesman Once Dismissed Chance of Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare

December 14, 2010 - 4:01 AM

(CNSNews.com) – Months before the $1-trillion health care overhaul legislation passed, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed the possibility of a constitutional challenge.

“I won't be confused as a constitutional scholar, but I don't believe there's a lot of -- I don't believe there's a lot of case law that would demonstrate the veracity of what they're commentating on,” Gibbs told CNSNews.com in October 2009, when he was asked if the health care bill was constitutional. 

Today, there is case law.

A federal judge in Richmond, Va., on Monday ruled that the individual mandate in the law -- which requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty -- is unconstitutional. The challenge to the mandate was brought before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general.

On Monday, Gibbs said the White House was not concerned about the judge’s ruling, and he noted that two earlier federal court rulings upheld the constitutionality of the health care law.

“Challenges like this are nothing new in terms of laws that [have] come before the courts in the past in which our position has prevailed,” Gibbs told reporters after the ruling. “We’re confident that it is constitutional, and quite frankly, of the three courts that have rendered decisions on this question, two have ruled in our favor.”

In October, a federal judge in Michigan found that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional, and later, a federal judge in Virginia dismissed a separate lawsuit brought by Liberty University that challenged the constitutionality of the health reform law, the White House has noted.

There is still no final ruling on an entirely separate challenge brought by 20 states against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. A federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., heard arguments in the states’ class-action lawsuit in September.

The health care law faces multiple challenges and is widely expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.