By Sally Voth - email@example.com
After initially lambasting the U.S. Supreme Court's Thursday ruling on health care, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli took heart in the high court's decision to limit congressional powers.
In an early reaction to the ruling, Cuccinelli had issued a statement calling it a "dark day" for America, but had backed off that a couple hours later.
Cuccinelli hosted a live in-person and telephone press conference shortly after noon, and said upon further analysis of the 193- page ruling he'd realized that key principles were preserved.
"Individual liberty was the priority, and protecting the Constitution was the priority here, and that was preserved today by and large," he said.
That was "contrary to our first original reaction," he said.
"This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law," the attorney general stated in his morning release. "This is a dark day for American liberty.
"This unprecedented decision says that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy private goods or face fines - a power it has never had in American history, and a power King George III and Parliament didn't have over us when we were mere subjects of Great Britain. Since the federal government itself could never articulate to the court a constitutional limit to this power, Congress has gained an unlimited power to force citizens to buy anything."
Cuccinelli said in his press conference that the majority of the federal health care bill still stands, but the section requiring states to forfeit all of their Medicaid funding if they didn't agree to expand Medicaid was declared unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court this morning voted 5-4 to mostly uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. siding with liberal justices.
The chief justice wrote that the the fine assessed against persons who don't get health insurance is a tax, not a penalty, and Congress has the authority to "lay and collect taxes."
"If [the tax] had been enough to actually buy health insurance, he would've called it a penalty," Cuccinelli said.
Not having to expand Medicaid coverage helps Virginia "avoid a huge cost" -- about $200 million a year -- Cuccinelli said.
"The biggest cost [to] our state government in this whole thing, under this ruling, that we did well on," he added. "Absolutely, I'm happy about that."
Cuccinelli issued another statement late Thursday afternoon expressing disappointment with the Supreme Court decision, but finding a "silver lining."
"Virginia's legal argument has always been that there was no constitutional basis for the federal health insurance mandate, and that the health care law should be struck down in its entirety," he said in the afternoon statement. "The court's decision has saddled us with a budget-busting health care law that will most assuredly increase health care costs and thrust a new tax on the American people."
The silver lining comes from the high court's upholding of the Commerce Clause, which he said the federal government hoped to use to make Americans buy insurance, but which only applies to people "currently engaged in commercial activity."
"This represents the court's first express acknowledgement of the actual limits on the federal government's commerce power since the New Deal," he said in the statement.
Gov. Bob McDonnell also expressed disappointment with the decision, saying the act will result in "a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country's ability to recover from these challenging economic times."
It will also hurt small businesses and take away personal liberties, the government said in a statement, which added the opinion will undergo further analysis as his administration determines future policy.
Both McDonnell and Cuccinelli used the ruling as a campaign rallying cry.
"It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens," McDonnell said in his statement.
Voters will have an even more "critical role" in "ensuring that their liberties are preserved," Cuccinelli said during his press conference.
The U.S. Senate only needs 51 votes to repeal a tax bill, he noted in his latter statement.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report