Ken Cuccinelli

RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he will file a formal response as early as next week to the federal government’s attempt to dismiss Virginia’s legal challenge to Obamacare.

In an exclusive interview with Heritage, Cuccinelli said the federal government’s motion to dismiss, released on Monday, was mostly predictable. He said the attorney general’s office had already anticipated the government’s arguments and will have its response ready on or before June 7.

“What they filed on Monday was very much what we expected,” Cuccinelli said in an interview at his Richmond office. “You never know exactly how they’re going to present it, but we did expect them to move to dismiss the case.”

The legal maneuvering puts Cuccinelli at the center of the Obamacare court battle. In addition to Virginia’s lawsuit, 20 states have joined a legal challenge from Florida. Virginia is pursuing its own strategy because its legislature adopted a law protecting its citizens from the individual mandate.

Cuccinelli said the stakes are high and he expects Virginia’s case — and probably Florida’s — to end up before the Supreme Court within the next two years.

“We are doing what the founders expected states to do,” Cuccinelli said. “We are a check in the checks and balances system that was laid out by James Madison.”

The dual legal strategy has its advantages. Virginia is located in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, while Florida is in the 11th U.S. Circuit. Given the high-profile nature of the court challenge to Obamacare, Cuccinelli believes it’s even more likely for the Supreme Court to be the ultimate arbiter.

For his part, Cuccinelli said he’s prepared for the fight. “We are absolutely in it for the long haul and that’s important,” he said. Cuccinelli has also filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its claim that greenhouse gases jeopardize human health, another major legal fight.

Ultimately, Cuccinelli said his legal challenge to Obamacare is more than a fight over government-run health care. He said America’s first principles are at stake.

“I don’t think in my lifetime we’ve seen one statute that so erodes liberty than this health care bill,” he said. “Certainly, we view our lawsuit as being not merely about health care. That’s actually secondary to the real important aspect of the case, and that is to protect the Constitution as we essentially define the outer limits of federal power. If we lose, it’s very much the end of federalism as we’ve known it for over 220 years.”