updated 5/12/2010 1:56:13 PM ET 2010-05-12T17:56:13

The Obama administration argues in its first court response to a challenge against the new health care law that Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance.

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The argument by Justice Department lawyers comes in a lawsuit that a conservative group, the Thomas More Law Center, filed in federal court in Detroit on March 23, the same day President Barack Obama signed the new law.

According to the Obama administration's filing late Tuesday, the minimum coverage mandate is a valid exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce.

The administration's defense of the law against the private group's challenge is to be followed in coming weeks and months by federal government court responses to lawsuits filed by many states.

In its lawsuit, the Thomas More Law Center says that the Health Care Reform Act imposes unprecedented governmental mandates that restrict the personal and economic freedoms of American citizens.

In response, the Justice Department says the Constitution grants Congress the authority to regulate commerce and that this broad grant of power is not limited to the direct regulation of interstate commerce.

Timeline: Health care highs and lowsCongress also may regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce and "a court may not second-guess the factual record upon which Congress relied" in writing the legislation, the Obama administration argued.

The Justice Department said that the law center's challenge should not be allowed to go forward in the courts because the minimum coverage requirement inflicts no actual or imminent injury.

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