Hatch files friend-of-court brief in challenge to healthcare law

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Wednesday that he signed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new healthcare law.

The announcement is noteworthy for two reasons:

1) Hatch is expected to be the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee next Congress, and that committee played a major role in writing the healthcare legislation. Hatch made headlines last year during the bill-writing process when he quit the gang of seven senators discussing the legislation, saying there were too many aspects of the bill that he couldn't support.

2) Voters signaled their unhappiness with the new law by voting a record number of Democrats out of office last week. Hatch is up for reelection in 2012 and could face a primary challenge from the right. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has said he's thinking about running against the six-term senator. Plus, Hatch saw his home-state colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), lose to a more conservative candidate in the primary process this year.

Hatch was a vocal opponent of the healthcare legislation during the debate process, vowing to "kill" it when it came to the Senate.

In explaining his friend-of-the-court brief, Hatch said: “The $2.6 trillion health law is an astonishing expansion of federal power and busts the limits that the Constitution imposes on the federal government."

A total of 20 states have signed onto the lawsuit, which originated in Florida. In October, a federal judge ruled the lawsuit could proceed. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also filed a friend-of-the-court brief and has urged other Republican senators to join him. 

-- This post was updated at 7:46 a.m.