U.S. judge sets December 16 hearing on healthcare suit

PENSACOLA, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida judge said on Tuesday he would hear arguments on December 16 on a lawsuit by 20 states seeking to block President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the healthcare system.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who is weighing a motion by the Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuit, set the follow-up hearing on the lawsuit led by Florida and involving 19 other states, which was originally filed in March by mostly Republican state attorneys general.

Vinson said he would formally rule on the dismissal motion by October 14, but Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said the judge had already strongly indicated that the case would not be dismissed.

“The judge’s apparent decision today means we will proceed,” McCollum told reporters.

The lawsuit claims the sweeping reform of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system, pushed through by Obama’s fellow Democrats in 2Congress after months of bitter partisan wrangling, violates state government rights in the Constitution and will force massive new spending on hard-pressed state governments.

Reporting by Michael Peltier, Editing by Vicki Allen