Less than eight hours after Congress passed sweeping health care reforms, Virginia's attorney general announced a legal challenge.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli said early Monday that he will invoke the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act in challenging what he and other conservatives decry as an unconstitutional overreach of federal authority.
Cuccinelli joins several other conservative state attorneys general from the region promising fast legal pushback after the House of Representatives finished passage of the legislation Sunday night.
Cuccinelli said he would file the action as soon as President Barack Obama signs into law the bill in the U.S. District Court.
Virginia became the first state to enact a law that bucks any effort by the federal government to impose federal health care mandates in the states.
Similar measures were filed or proposed in 34 other state legislatures.
The Virginia law says that no resident of the state can be compelled by the federal law to have health insurance, nor can any Virginian be forced to pay a fine or penalty for refusing health coverage.
While enactment of the Virginia law is complete, it doesn't take effect until July 1.
That doesn't prohibit the attorney general from using it as the basis for his lawsuit, said Cuccinelli's spokesman, Brian Gottstein.
"The courts allow you to take a law into court ahead of time if there is what's called an actual controversy. Even though the law does not take effect until July, we know it will take effect and we know it will conflict with another law, in this case the federal health care law, and it is in the best interest to resolve it sooner rather than later," Gottstein said.
Supporters of the Virginia law say it underscores protections the state should already enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. The 10th Amendment gives states any powers the Constitution doesn't either forbid or reserve for the federal government.
It passed comfortably in the Republican-controlled House and on a 23-17 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In both chambers, Democrats supported the measure.
Opponents called it a vain and partisan effort by Virginia's new Republican leaders to shake a fist at Washington before this year's midterm races for Congress.