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Michigan Judge Upholds Provisions in Health Care Law

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A federal judge in Michigan has rejected a constitutional attack on President Obama's health care overhaul, ruling that Congress did not exceed its authority when it passed the landmark legislation requiring people to buy health insurance.

Federal Judge George Caram Steeh rejected claims by the Thomas More Law Center and several Michigan residents, who argued they should not be required to buy into a health plan that could fund abortions. Today's decision focused on two constitutional issues: whether the law violated the Commerce Clause, because it exceeded Congress' authority, and whether it amounted to an unconstitutional tax.

Although the decision is the first case to reach the merits on the Commerce Clause, it should go without saying that the issues are far from resolved. It's like a tropical storm brewing in the ocean that hasn't quite made it to hurricane status. For one, this case is certain to be appealed, and more importantly, the two major lawsuits -- one in Florida and another in Virginia -- have yet to be decided. Those lawsuits involve challenges by more than a dozen state attorneys general and governors.

All of the cases are gathering strength to make landfall at One First Street -- the Supreme Court.

Still, it is the first case to reach the merits on the Commerce Clause issue, which is one of the more compelling legal arguments against the health care reforms. Under the Commerce Clause, Congress has power to regulate economic activity. These lawsuits argue the Constitution does not give Congress the power to regulate economic inactivity.

The judge rejected those arguments, ruling that Congress had power to pass the law because it had a substantial effect on interstate commerce and was part of a broader regulatory scheme.

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