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The Unconstitutionality of ObamaCare in Black and White

Key excerpts from Judge Vinson's historic ruling.

by
Jeffrey H. Anderson

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January 31, 2011 - 4:10 pm
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United States District Court Judge Roger Vinson has ruled that ObamaCare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that, since removal of the mandate would make ObamaCare a fundamentally different act than the one that Congress passed, its removal must invalidate the entire 2,700-page overhaul.

In a case brought by 26 states arguing that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, Judge Vinson ruled that the individual mandate — ObamaCare’s requirement that every American must buy federally approved health insurance — exceeds the scope of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, and is thereby unconstitutional.

Judge Vinson writes that “the defendants [the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, among others] have conceded that the Act’s health insurance reforms cannot survive without the individual mandate, which is extremely significant because the various insurance provisions, in turn, are the very heart of the Act itself.”  Therefore, Vinson writes,

I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit.

This marks the first time that a federal judge has ruled that ObamaCare as a whole is invalid.

The judge took care to emphasize that “this case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation, or whether it will solve or exacerbate the myriad problems in our health care system.” Rather, he said, the case is about whether Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce also empowers it to compel commerce.  Judge Vinson ruled that it does not, saying that to declare otherwise would extend the commerce power beyond the the plain and historically understood limits of that power and beyond the limits that the Supreme Court has previous sanctioned.

The Obama administration will now appeal the case, which was brought by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Here are some key excerpts from Judge Vinson’s 78-page opinion:

[T]his case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation, or whether it will solve or exacerbate the myriad problems in our health care system. In fact, it is not really about our health care system at all. It is principally about our federalist system, and it raises very important issues regarding the Constitutional role of the federal government….

Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company…just for being alive and residing in the United States….

It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting — as was done in the Act — that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce”…, it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place….

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