Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson has ruled that a key provision of President Obama’s health care reform law passed last year violates the Constitution. Judge Vinson’s decision is the second judicial blow to the President’s signature legislative achievement in a little over a month.
Today’s ruling in a lawsuit filed the attorneys general and governors from 20 states is similar to the ruling issued by Judge Henry Hudson in December, which found the individual mandate violates the Constitution. Judge Vinson’s ruling goes further and effectively strikes down the entire Health Care Reform law — which because of the hasty way in which the law was cobbled together lacks severability.
I’m still waiting for a copy of the ruling, but David Weigel points out the money graf:
Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
Frankly, I’m not the least bit surprised by Judge Vision’s ruling, the President’s health care reform was cobbled together and rushed through Congress in manner that paid little or no attention to the will or concerns of the people and ignored Constitutional limits on governmental power.
Now would be a good time for the President and congressional leaders to admit “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is bad law and repeal it. They can can then begin work on a replacement that can crafted in the full light of day.
Update: The Heritage Foundation notes:
Today’s decision should be a major source of concern for the Obama administration for at least five reasons.
First, the parties involved. This case involves a majority of the states (26), and the National Federation of Independent Business. If not completely unprecedented, the very fact that more than half the states marched into federal court on behalf of themselves and their citizens to challenge an unconstitutional federal program falls into the category of “beyond any recent memory.” The sheer magnitude of the parties involved guarantees that the courts on appeal will pay particular attention to this case.
Second, the case creates a very bad trend for the administration. Those courts which have taken the time to more fully develop the record in the case, and to have more briefing and hearings (Virginia and Florida), have ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. This is important because, contrary to the White House spin, litigation is not a scoreboard. It is not enough to say that you have won some and lost some. Some district court wins “count” more, because they are more indicative of what is likely to come next. Here, the cases the administration has lost have been better developed, have significant and sophisticated parties, and are in a better position for appeal than the more cursory cases that they have won at more preliminary stages.
Third, the case strikes down the whole of Obamacare based on the unconstitutionality of the mandate. The administration has tried to have it both ways on this one, with the President and key proponents arguing how essential the mandate is, while the Justice Department arguing at times that it was absolutely essential, and at times that it was severable. If the DOJ really wanted to keep the bill severable, perhaps they should not have argued in court that removing the mandate while maintaining the remaining requirements of the bill would “inexorably drive [the health insurance] market into extinction.” Those who would falsely accuse the Judge of overstepping his bounds must recognize both the standards for severability, which he properly applied, and the damning concession made on this point by the Justice Department.
The fourth problem for the Obama DOJ: Judge Vinson’s decision is thorough, well-reasoned, and likely will be very persuasive to appellate judges, and eventually Justices, who review the case. He was judicious, ruling against the states on the spending clause claim and for them on the Commerce Clause. The most important document in any appeal is the decision below, and Judge Vinson’s will give the court of appeals much to consider. Put simply, Vinson has just made the Obama DOJ’s job much more difficult.
The fifth problem, the Judge granted declaratory relief to the parties, which includes 26 states. Because the entire act was struck down, the future requirements to expand Medicaid programs will be suspended, at least as to these 26 states, and these states will be relieved of their obligation to make plans for such expansion in the immediate future. At a time when many states face insolvency, the removal of this burden is welcome news. The Obama administration, rather than fight the relief for these 26 states, should extend it to all 50 until the case is finally resolved.
Update II: Sen. Jim DeMint tweets:
All Republican Senators have now joined to cosponsor the bill to repeal ObamaCare, S.192
Update III: The DOJ is preparing to appeal Judge Vinson’s ruling and the White House has described the ruling as “odd and unconventional” and “overreaching“… Funny, I’d call Obamacare a grossly overreaching federal power grab that ignores Constitutional limits on federal power.