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Officials: Health Care Challenges "Without Merit"

health care

Though 14 states were quick to file lawsuits against the health care plan President Obama signed into law on Tuesday, senior administration officials dismiss the legal challenges as "completely without merit."

In a conference call arranged by the White House, the officials told reporters that such lawsuits are "nothing new."

Speaking on condition they would not be identified by name, the officials cited past legal challenges to Social Security, the Voting Rights and Civil Rights acts. They said those were unsuccessful just as they expect the current lawsuits against health care to end up.

The officials emphatically dismiss the argument that Congress lacks the authority to require all Americans to buy or otherwise obtain health insurance or pay a fee to be imposed by the I.R.S.

"We think that argument is false," said one official.

The officials contend that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution - known as the Commerce Clause - empowers Congress to regulate interstate business including health insurance. And the officials say the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that Congressional power.

Some states also challenge the provision in the new law that would compel them to establish health insurance exchanges. The officials say states have a choice: they can set up an exchange or not. If not, the federal Department of Health and Human Services will set it up instead, they say.

A number of state attorneys general view the new health care law as pre-empting authority given the states by the 10th Amendment. The administration officials deny the federal government is commandeering state power.

But what if the courts strike down one or more provisions of the massive health care act? Would it bring down the entire law?

The officials think that's "quite unlikely." A provision might be deemed unconstitutional, they say, but not the law as a whole.

Details of the Bill:

Summary of What's in the Bill
Uninsured? What the New Bill Means for You
Already Insured? Get Ready to Pay More
Health Reform Tweaks Seniors' Medicare
Feds Eye Big Savings from Health Reform
How Health Reform Affects Small Businesses
Provisions Which Take Effect in Short-Term
Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure

More Coverage on Health Care Reform:

Obama Dares GOP to Run on Repeal of Health Bill
Poll: Most Want GOP to Keep Fighting on Health Bill
Eric Cantor Says Bullet Shot Through His Office Window This Week
Joe Biden: "F-Bomb" During Health Care Signing was the Highlight of the Day
Coffin on Lawmaker's Lawn, Other Reports of Angry Actions Surface
Violent Threats Leveled at House Members
Poll: Small Bump in Health Care Believers
Health Care Bill Myths Likely to Linger
Biden Swears at Bill Signing: Just Biden Being Biden?

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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