Wisconsin looks to join multi-state reform lawsuit

A high-profile lawsuit against healthcare reform may get a little bigger, with Wisconsin announcing Monday afternoon it would challenge the law.

Just hours after Wisconsin’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, was sworn in, he authorized the state's Republican attorney general to join a federal lawsuit in Florida challenging the reform law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance by 2014.

“Simply put, the requirements of the [law] are unprecedented, and in my view, unconstitutional,” Walker said in a letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

The news comes as little surprise after Van Hollen said last month he would challenge the reform law when Walker took office. Last March, then-Gov. Jim Doyle (D) denied Van Hollen’s original request to join the Florida lawsuit. Van Hollen expects to take action “promptly,” his office said. 

"Taking into account the interests of our State and the overarching goal of defending the Constitution, you may [challenge the law] in the forum and on the legal grounds you deem appropriate - whether by joining an existing action, participating as amici, or by initiating a new action," Walker said.

Wisconsin would add another actor to a crowded field of reform law challengers. Dozens of Republicans, including Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), filed friend-of-the-court briefs in Florida challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The judge, a Reagan appointee, is expected to issue his decision this month.

So far, two federal judges appointed by President Clinton have upheld the law’s individual mandate. Another judge, appointed by President George W. Bush, struck down the mandate in a lawsuit filed by Virginia, but he did not block implementation of the law. The Obama administration will challenge that decision in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, while the 6th Circuit weighs an appeal of a decision that upheld the individual mandate.

Many legal observers believe that the Supreme Court will have the final word on the reform law sometime in 2012.