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Florida's attorney general calls U.S. Justice Department request in health care lawsuit a delaying tactic

TALLAHASSEE — Legal wranglings continue in the Florida-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of federal health care legislation.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Wednesday filed a response in Pensacola to the U.S. Department of Justice's request that U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson clarify a ruling he issued last month. Vinson concluded that the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act violates the Constitution because it requires people to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Federal officials want Vinson to explain whether his ruling halts provisions of the act currently in effect while the case makes its way through appeals.

The suit, which pits 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses against the federal government, likely will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bondi characterized the Justice Department's request for clarification as a delay tactic.

"The order clearly required a halt to implementation. JudgeVinson's order is an injunction stopping the federal government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act on the 26 states," Bondi said in a prepared statement. "Our memorandum states that time is of the essence in this matter, and the Court should deny the defendants' motion for clarification."

Meanwhile, a U.S. District judge in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday upheld the federal law as constitutional.

"We welcome this ruling," said Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. "This court found — as two others have previously — that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable measure for Congress to take in reforming our health care system. At the same time, trial courts in additional cases have dismissed numerous challenges to this law on jurisdictional and other grounds. The Department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation."

So far, three judges have ruled that the law passes constitutional muster, and two have deemed the so-called individual mandate unconstitutional.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida's attorney general calls U.S. Justice Department request in health care lawsuit a delaying tactic 02/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:04pm]
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