Va. Health Bill Could Foil Obama Proposal, State Questions Constitutionality

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | March 8, 2010Source: Courtesy of The Boston Globe.com

RICHMOND - Here in the former capital of the Old Confederacy, where resistance to the supremacy of federal law has a long and tortuous history, a new battle is being waged over a question that could undercut a key part of President Obama’s health care proposal: whether Washington can require that most Americans have health insurance.

The Virginia Legislature this week is poised to become the first state to pass legislation that says citizens cannot be required to have medical insurance.

Dozens of other states are considering similar measures, possibly setting the stage for one of the greatest tests of federal power over the states since the civil rights era.

If states are allowed to opt out of the mandate, the foundation of Obama’s effort would be undermined, turning the nascent revolt here into one with national implications.

The debate goes far beyond a disagreement with the approach to health care coverage taken in Massachusetts.

Rather, Virginia’s lawmakers are focused on constitutional questions and the power of states to run their own affairs.

“The administration is trying to shift from a government by social compact, agreement between elected officials and citizens, to a government where the leaders tell the subjects what to do,’’ said Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican and chief sponsor of the measure. “That is not what the American Revolution was about.’’

Versions of the bill have passed the Virginia House and Senate, with final passage considered all but certain. The Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, supports the measure.

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