January 31, 2011

Federal Judge in Florida: Obamacare Unconstitutional in Its Entirety

Via Reuters, mostly pre-spin (bolds are mine):

Judge strikes down healthcare reform law

A federal judge in Florida struck down President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul as unconstitutional on Monday in the biggest legal challenge yet to federal authority to enact the law.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the reform law’s so-called individual mandate went too far in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void,” he wrote, “This has been a difficult decision to reach and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”

Referring to a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Vinson sided with governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans, in declaring the Obama healthcare reform unconstitutional.

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” Vinson, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, ruled.

The Obama administration said it would appeal Vinson’s ruling and believed it would prevail on a highly politicized issue likely to end up at the Supreme Court.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe — as other federal courts have found — that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.

The judge jettisoned the junk with a nice jab at a certain former “constitutional law professor” in the process:

Judge uses Obama’s words against him

… “I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that ‘if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of the 78-page ruling Monday.

Much of the 78-page ruling was a discussion of how the nation’s founding fathers, such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, set limits on congressional power. Judge Vinson also hypothesized that, under the Obama administration‘s legal theory, the government could mandate eating broccoli.

White House officials said that sort of “surpassingly curious reading” called into question Judge Vinson‘s entire ruling.

“There’s something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis,” said a White House official who briefed reporters late Monday afternoon, speaking on condition of anonymity.

What’s “odd” is that a constitutional law professor thinks he can say anything during a campaign and it won’t come back to haunt him.

Oh, and now making people buy insurance is conventional? No guys, it’s objectively unconstitutional. The only question is whether higher courts will rule as the Constitution would dictate without the document itself being amended.


UPDATE: At the Tatler, Stephen Green is taking issue with Reuters’s characterization of the individual mandate as “so-called.” Well, yes and no. My guess is that the words “individual” and “mandate” don’t appear together in the law, so technically the wire service’s use of “so-called” slides by. If it had put “individual mandate” in scare quotes that would have been another matter.

Green also takes issue with the report’s reference the judge being a Reagan appointee and to “almost all” Republican governors being in the group of 26. As to the latter, it passes the accuracy test as long as the group of 26 has 23 or more GOPers, which I think it does. As to the former, if Reuters fails to flag Clinton or Obama appointees in rulings on appeal, that will be another matter.


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