Casting an unmistakable and perhaps permanent pockmark on the face of the Obama administration, a federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a major component of the new health care reform law is unconstitutional.
Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled Monday for the state’s claim that the requirement for people to purchase health care exceeds the power of Congress under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
This ruling covers the Virginia case, brought by state AG Ken Cuccinelli, against ObamaCare. The Florida case, which has been joined by Texas and nearly two dozen other states, proceeds. Oral arguments in that case begin on Thursday. The way the law was constructed, striking down the individual mandate, as this federal judge has, strikes down the entire law.
Josh Marshall, in a state of shock, says that “no one” took the constitutional argument against ObamaCare seriously. Obviously a majority of the voters did, a couple dozen state attorneys general did, and a federal judge has as well.
Next stop, the US Supreme Court (after appeals, of course).
Update: The White House has a spokesman on Fox now, pointing out that two other federal judges have ruled the mandate constitutional. True enough. That’s among the reasons this will end up at SCOTUS. Here’s the decision, btw.
Update: VA AG Cuccinelli’s reaction:
“I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” said Cuccinelli in a statement.
The heart of Judge Hudson’s decision:
In a 42-page opinion, Hudson said the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress’s power to regulate interstate trade.
“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” he wrote. “In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]
Update: Elections matter.
President George W. Bush nominated Hudson on January 23, 2002, to a new seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia created by 114 Stat. 2762. The United States Senate confirmed the nomination on August 1, 2002, and Hudson received his commission on August 2, 2002.
Update: A note on severability from the NYT take on the ruling:
The officials stressed that the judge’s decision to not enjoin the law would defer any actual impact for years. They noted that the insurance requirement does not even take effect until 2014, when the Supreme Court presumably will have ruled.
The administration has said that if that provision eventually falls, related insurance reforms would necessarily collapse with it, most notably the ban on insurer exclusions of applicants with pre-existing health conditions. But officials said other innovations, including a vast expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the sale of subsidized insurance policies through state-based exchanges, would withstand even a Supreme Court ruling against the insurance mandate.
Repealers aren’t off the hook.
Update: Watching the WH press briefing. Robert Gibbs just went Orwellian, describing the mandate as “individual responsibility,” as opposed to the mandate/tax/penalty that it is. “Individual responsibility” seems to be their new sales line — he just used it again. Watch for that phrase in ongoing WH comms on ObamaCare.
This obviously an effort to soften ObamaCare, but it shouldn’t fool anyone. It’s a tax, one which puts the IRS inside the health care decision loop, and can result in Americans going to jail for the crime of not purchasing health insurance.
Update: And just in time, a new poll is out showing that ObamaCare is still getting less popular.
The law’s never been popular, with support peaking at just 48 percent in November 2009. Today it’s slipped to 43 percent, numerically its lowest in ABC/Post polling. (It was about the same, 44 percent, a year ago.) Fifty-two percent are opposed, and that 9-point gap in favor of opposition is its largest on record since the latest debate over health care reform began in earnest in summer 2009.
More also continue to “strongly” oppose the law than to strongly support it, 37 percent to 22 percent.
What to do about it is another question: People who don’t support the law fragment on how to proceed, with a plurality in this group, 38 percent, saying they’d rather wait and see before deciding on a direction. Among the rest, 30 percent would repeal parts of the law, while about as many, 29 percent, favor repealing all of it.
Update: Here’s video from Robert Gibbs’ WH presser earlier today.
This is Orwellian. If the responsibility is “individual,” then it’s not the government’s business to force it upon anyone. But as Gibbs makes clear, it’s not really individual at all, it’s collectivist. The mandate is a tax forcing some to pay for others’ health care.
Update: Guess who’s making the auto insurance to health insurance comparison now. If you guessed “the White House blog,” you guessed right.
For example, in most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Accidents happen and when they do, they need to be paid for quickly and responsibly. Requiring drivers to carry auto insurance accomplishes this goal. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for.