Mississippi Judge Tosses Health Care Reform Challenge — But Doesn’t Address The Key Question

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The Obama Administration is quietly trumpeting the fact that a federal judge in Mississippi tossed out a lawsuit Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law.

By definition, it’s good news for the White House. But the judge in question didn’t rule on the legal question that is at the heart of the constitutional challenges to the new law.

It was a strange suit, filed by the lieutenant governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, acting in his capacity as a civilian, along with several other individuals. And unlike the other challenges to the law, including the one by many state attorneys general, which allege that the law’s individual mandate exceeds Congress’ Commerce Clause powers, this lawsuit was brought on 10th Amendment grounds.The judge concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, but offered them a chance to amend their petition within 30 days.

“Every lawsuit will have an obstacle but I am pleased that Judge Starrett did not dismiss the entire claim,” Bryant said in a prepared statement. “Instead he has asked the attorneys to correct some procedural information contained in the suit and we are now working on that task.”

Obama administration defenders will note that this decision isn’t getting non-stop media coverage like Monday’s ruling by a Florida that the entire law be voided. But the Florida case was decided on the same jurisprudential turf that most constitutional scholars think the Supreme Court will ultimately consider. Thus the number of judges who have ruled for and against the administration on the key question (two and two) remains unchanged.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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