RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Republican leaders on Thursday denounced the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding President Barack Obama's health care overhaul as an assault on individual freedom, while a top Democrat said the ruling clears the way for improved access to health care.

The court ruled 5-4 that the law requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli had argued to the contrary in a separate lawsuit that was tossed out by a federal appeals court.

"This is a dark day for American liberty," Cuccinelli said in a written statement minutes after the Supreme Court issued its ruling. "This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land."

Gov. Bob McDonnell had a similar reaction, calling the decision "a blow to freedom." He said the health care law will impair economic recovery, hurt small businesses and impose "dramatic unfunded mandates" on states.

But former governor and current Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine called the law "an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care."

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