Today, a second federal judge in as many months ruled Obamacare unconstitutional (see Avik Roy at The Apothecary blog at Forbes.com). That’s two lawsuits involving 27 states against the federal government’s healthcare takeover and two rulings that it is unconsitutional.
Perhaps the most devastating aspect of Judge Roger Vinson’s decision is that he ruled the entire law is unconstitutional because the offending portion — the individual mandate that forces Americans, for the first time in history, to buy a product — is not severable. In other words, when the law was drafted, in its legislative sloppiness, the U.S. Senate did not include a clause that declared if any part of it was ruled unconstitutional, the remainder of the law remained in effect. Even Judge Henry Hudson, of the Eastern District of Virginia, who was the first judge to rule Obamacare unconstitutional, refused to go that far. But Judge Vinson did not enjoin the law (see 21StateLawSuit.com), either.
Much like Judge Hudson’s opinion, however, Judge Vinson said the law goes well beyond the limits of the Commerce Clause and any High Court precedent. He wrote:
The individual mandate exceeds Congress’ commerce power, as it is understood, defined, and applied in the existing Supreme Court case law.
Here is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s reaction:
I am heartened by the fact that another federal judge has found that the individual mandate forcing citizens to buy private health insurance is unconstitutional. The judge also found that the individual mandate could not be severed from the remainder of the law, so he declared the entire act invalid.
Constitutional principles have scored another victory today. Liberty has scored another victory today.
I congratulate Florida Attorney General Bondi, former Attorney General McCollum, and the attorneys general and governors who joined the Florida suit, on their victory.
Here is Governor Bob McDonnell’s reaction:
Judge Vinson’s ruling is yet another strike against the individual mandate specifically, and the entire federal health care law generally. For the second time in as many months, a federal judge has found that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by mandating that citizens of this nation purchase a commercial product or else face a penalty.
Judge Henry Hudson reached a similar conclusion in his December ruling on the Commonwealth’s challenge to the Act. However, Judge Vinson’s decision goes one step further. The Judge also ruled that the individual mandate component is not severable from the overall Act in which it is contained, meaning that this one unconstitutional provision renders the entire bill void.
I agree with both Judge Vinson and Judge Hudson that the individual mandate is clearly unconstitutional. However, this matter is far from settled. Today’s decision adds to the growing uncertainty surrounding federal health care reform. That uncertainty is leaving states, businesses and individuals unable to properly plan for 2014 and the scheduled implementation of this new law.
For this reason I reiterate my request that the Department of Justice join with the states to request fast tracking the challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the final decision regarding its constitutionality will ultimately be determined. All parties involved, no matter where they stand on this measure, should support moving this issue to its final stage, and bringing finality to a complicated matter that will have an impact on every state, employer and citizen of this nation.