Virginia Federal District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled today that the individual mandate in ObamaCare and all the provisions in that Act which relate to it are unconstitutional. The judge’s ruling is posted here, but here are two of the key excerpts:
Salutatory goals and creative drafting have never been sufficient to offset an absence of enumerated powers.[p.21]
It is clear from the text of Section 1501 that the underlying regulatory scheme was conceived as an exercise of Commerce Clause powers. This is supported by specific factual findings purporting to demonstrate the effect of the health care scheme on interstate commerce. In order for the noncompliance penalty component to survive constitutional challenge, it must serve to effectuate a valid exercise of an enumerated power-here the Commerce Clause. [at p. 36]
In doing so, Judge Hudson rejected the administration’s claims that Congress has the authority to regulate decisions not to buy insurance coverage, and that the mandate which it had originally asserted was a penalty not a tax,was indeed, a tax.
A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.
The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance-or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage-it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution confers upon Congress only discrete enumerated governmental powers. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. See U.S. Canst. amend. X; Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 919, 117 S. Ct. 2365, 2376-77 (1997). [at p. 37, emphasis supplied]
On careful review, this Court must conclude that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-specifically the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision-exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power. [at p. 38]
The latter defense was, as the Court noted, a clear after the fact Hail Mary play the administration tried when it was clear that the Commerce Clause might not be sufficient to cover this legislative overreach.
Because the case was decided on motions for summary judgment there was no testimony, no expert witnesses, and no detailed discussion of more than a few of the 400 provisions in the act, most of which relate to other matters. Further, the haste with which it was enacted made it impossible for the Court to determine on the record how much of the remaining law was dependent on Section 1501. Therefore, relying on sound constitutional law, the judge declined to issue an injunction of the act because the mandate and the provisions specifically related to it do not even go into effect until 2014.