Legal Challenge to ObamaCare Passes First Hurdle

Judge Hudson agreed with the government's position, which Virginia conceded, that the "power of the Congress to tax exceeds it ability to regulate under the Commerce Clause." However, he also noted -- and the government "appeared to concede" -- that it is limited, and that if the mandatory health insurance law "is not within the letter and spirit of the Constitution, then the [tax] penalty necessarily fails." Similarly, notwithstanding the expansive authority of the federal government argued to exist under the General Welfare clause of the Constitution, Judge Hudson properly held that the latter clause does not allow an otherwise unconstitutional federal intervention.

The case is far from over. However, as Judge Hudson observed:

While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate -- and tax -- a citizen's decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce. Given the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side's position, this Court cannot conclude at that stage that the Complaint fails to state a cause of action.

In the procedural posture of the case, Judge Hudson could not have concluded that Virginia will ultimately win on the merits or that ObamaCare is unconstitutional; he went about as far as he could. The district court will not have the final say, and the root issues will eventually wind up before the Supreme Court unless ObamaCare is repealed or modified later by Congress.

Still, the decision provides reason to hope that sanity may prevail.

Within a few hours of the denial of the administration's motion to dismiss, a White House spokesperson proclaimed that the district court had got it all wrong in refusing to dismiss Virginia's complaint. She stated:

"The federal government believes this procedural ruling is in error and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents," Cutter wrote, "the types of precedents that, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, are designed to preserve the 'judiciary's proper role in our system of government' and to ensure that our courts do not become forums for political debates."

Now that the lawsuit must go forward, however, Cutter wrote that "the government fully expects to prevail on the merits" of its case."

Meanwhile, Representative Pete Stark, D-California, contended:

"I think that there are very few constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules that could affect your private life." He was roundly booed, but then given another opportunity to respond. He observed that "the federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country."

At least neither he nor the White House spokesperson hedged in expressing their views. Consistency of position, I guess, is a small step in the right direction.

The administration position should also clarify, for some who previously didn't understand, that only if the courts apply the Constitution and the mountain of precedent based upon it when dealing with governmental bullying can the republic persist.