A federal judge in Michigan dismissed one of more than 15 legal challenges to the new health care law Thursday, becoming the first to rule that the law is constitutional.
Two other cases with higher profiles, one in Florida and one in Virginia, are headed toward hearings on the issues that were decided in Michigan. The central question, which may ultimately fall to the Supreme Court, is whether the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to require citizens to obtain a commercial product, namely health insurance.
Starting in 2014, the law will require most Americans to obtain health insurance, while prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. Judge George C. Steeh of the U.S. District Court in Detroit ruled that choosing not to obtain insurance qualified as an example of "activities that substantially affect interstate commerce." That is the standard set by the Supreme Court for Congress' compliance with the Commerce Clause.
Steeh, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, agreed with the federal government that not obtaining health coverage is effectively an active decision to pay for medical care out of pocket.
• President Barack Obama rejected a bill the White House fears could worsen the mounting problems caused by flawed or misleading documents used by banks in home foreclosures. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama is sending a newly passed bill back to Congress to be fixed because the current version has "unintended consequences on consumer protections." The bill would loosen the process for providing a notary's seal to documents and allow them to be done electronically.
• Obama signed a pair of intelligence bills into law to improve oversight of spy operations and reduce the amount of threat information that is classified and kept from state and local authorities.
• The federal deficit for the just-finished 2010 budget year was a little under $1.3 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office estimated. The CBO puts it at about $125 billion below the $1.42 trillion record posted for 2009.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.