Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding the key provision of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul: "This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty."
Cuccinelli later said he found a lot to like in Thursday's decision, the Associated Press reported. Cuccinelli said he was pleased the court agreed with the central point he made in his own unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the law -- that the government cannot use the Constitution's Commerce Clause to force people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
"That's a win for liberty," Cuccinelli said at a news conference.
He also praised the ruling that the government cannot force states to expand Medicaid by threatening to withhold all federal funding for the program if they refuse. Cuccinelli said now the state will have a choice on the expansion, which would cost Virginia about $200 million a year over the next decade.
"There are going to be very good reasons for Virginia to consider not going down that road," Cuccinelli said, noting that there are many competing demands for scarce state tax dollars.
Cuccinelli attended the Supreme Court's arguments in the case in March, believing the law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional -- a view shared by the 26 states involved in the Supreme Court case.
Cuccinelli filed a separate lawsuit against the law, but a federal judge's ruling in his favor was overturned when a federal appeals court ruled that Virginia lacked legal standing to challenge the law.
"This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land," Cuccinelli said in a statement. "The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government.
"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," Cuccinelli continued. "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."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called the decision "extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America."
"Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law," McDonnell said in a statement. "While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. 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."
The Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Virginia also weighed in on the Supreme Court's ruling.
"While disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision on President Obama's health care law, I believe it reinforces what is truly at stake during this pivotal election," GOP candidate George Allen said in a statement. "This November the American people have an opportunity to choose new leadership in Washington who will listen to their voices and repeal this costly, harmful government health care law.
"My opponent believes this health care law is a 'great achievement,' but I believe it's an infringement on individual liberty and free enterprise," Allen continued in his statement. "As I have traveled throughout Virginia, I have heard from families, small business owners and seniors seriously concerned about the harmful impact of this health care law and how it is increasing costs, discouraging businesses from hiring, and trespassing on religious freedom."
Democrat Tim Kaine countered with the following:
“The Affordable Care Act is an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care, but more needs to be done to bring down costs," Kaine said in a statement. "Our government, businesses, and citizens cannot continue to spend more than any other nation on health care while getting second-rate results. As Senator, I am committed to working with all stakeholders to find additional improvements to the Affordable Care Act that give all Americans affordable access to high quality services.
“While there is more work to do, it is worth noting what has already been accomplished under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 63,000 more young people in Virginia have health coverage, more than 800,000 Virginia seniors have received free preventive care, millions of small businesses are now eligible for tax credits, and twenty million American women have access to cancer screenings and contraception without co-pays. And we've put an end to the egregious abuses by insurance companies that denied coverage to children with preexisting conditions, charged women higher premiums for the same coverage, and dropped folks when they got sick."
Meanwhile, in Maryland...
“President Obama and Congress chose to pass the Affordable Care Act because the status quo was hurting our ability to create jobs, expand opportunity, and protect the health of our children and parents," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said in a joint statement.
“In upholding the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to protect the lives of millions of Marylanders and millions of Americans. ... Today’s decision gives considerable momentum to our health care reform efforts here in Maryland. What it does not – and indeed must not – do, is give us license to take our eye off the ball or slow our progress. Moms, dads, and kids throughout Maryland are counting on their elected leaders to continue the mission of lowering costs, and improving the quality of care."
The Supreme Court's decision means the historic overhaul will continue to go into effect over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling also handed Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court's judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.
The court found problems with the law's expansion of a health care program for the poor, known as Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in the law's extension.
The court's four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome.
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.