Democrats' healthcare legislation is a "target-rich environment" for constitutional challenges and legal battles, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wrote on Saturday.

The bill's provisions for an insurance coverage mandate, a manifest Medicaid expansion and new insurance exchange all violate key sections of the country's guiding legal document, wrote the senator in the Wall Street Journal, along with Kenneth Blackwell, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, and Kenneth Klukowski, a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.

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"America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government," noted Hatch, formerly the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised."

"If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality," he added.

Hatch and his colleagues offer three arguments against Democrats' reforms:

- The individual mandate far exceeds any mandate provided under the Constitution's commerce clause. Writes Hatch: the "Constitution does not give Congress the power to require that Americans purchase health insurance. Congress must be able to point to at least one of its powers listed in the Constitution as the basis of any legislation it passes. None of those powers justifies the individual insurance mandate."

- The bill's move to expand Medicaid is unprecedented, but its provision to cover in full Nebraska's new Medicaid costs -- in part to win Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) vote -- is legally suspect. "This selective spending targeted at certain states runs afoul of the general welfare clause. The welfare it serves is instead very specific and has been dubbed "cash for cloture" because it secured the 60 votes the majority needed to end debate and pass this legislation," the senator said.

- The proposed insurance exchange "violates the letter, the spirit, and the interpretation of our federal-state form of government," Hatch said.

Nevertheless, at least one constitutional challenge is already underway. Attorneys general in 13 states last week announced they would probe the Medicaid deal in particular, fearing the money unfairly burdened their local governments.