UPDATE at 5:10 p.m.: Reading through the ruling, I’m struck by how sharply worded it is. An example:
According to the defendants [the Obama administration], because the Supreme Court has never identified a distinction between activity and inactivity as a limitation on Congress’ commerce power, to hold otherwise would “break new legal ground” and be “novel” and “unprecedented.” … First, it is interesting that the defendants — apparently believing the best defense is a good offense — would use the words “novel” and “unprecedented” since, as previously noted, those are the exact same words that the CRS [Congressional Research Service] and CBO [Congressional Budget Office] used to describe the individual mandate before it became law. Furthermore, there is a simple and rather obvious reason why the Supreme Court has never distinguished between activity and inactivity before: it has not been called upon to consider the issue because, until now, Congress had never attempted to exercise its Commerce Clause power in such a way before.
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.
That’s a far cry from impenetrable legalese. It’s blunt and, I must say, refreshing.
UPDATE at 4:37 p.m.: Wow, I was wrong about the ruling’s not taking effect. In fact, the judge says the states’ request for an injunction against the implementation of ObamaCare is not necessary, “for there is a long-standing presumption ‘that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.’ … There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here.”
That seems to suggest that ObamaCare has been stopped in its tracks in 26 states, including Georgia. If so that is stunning.
Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens are giving a press conference about the ruling as I type, so we will see if they believe the ruling means they don’t have to implement the law’s measures in Georgia.
Judge Vinson also takes a swipe at the administration’s argument that Congress can regulate “inactivity” as well as “activity” via the Commerce Clause:
The defendants [that is, the Obama administration] cite to Raich [a case involving the marijuana trade] for the proposition that Congress may reach “even wholly intrastate, non-commercial matters when it concludes that the failure to do so would undercut a larger program regulating interstate commerce.” … By paraphrasing Raich here rather than quoting from the decision the defendants have attempted to obscure the importance of “activity,” for the cited portion, and Justice Scalia’s concurrence (on which the defendants also rely), do not talk at all of “matters” — either commercial or not. They only mention (and often) “activities.” (emphasis added)
The activity/inactivity question is central to the case, so it’s very interesting to see the judge blast the administration’s lawyers for misrepresenting the case law on which they’re relying.
UPDATE at 4:06 p.m.: Unlike the judge in the Virginia case, Judge Vinson has ruled that, because the health law lacks a “severability” clause, striking down the mandate means “the entire Act must be declared void.” However, the law will remain in effect as it moves through the appeals process.
Vinson also rejected the states’ claims that ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid was unconstitutional under the Spending Clause, because it did not rise to the level of being “coercive.”
One early key quote from the ruling, which I’m still going through:
“I emphasized once before, but it bears repeating again: 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. 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.” (emphasis added)
Word is just getting out that a federal judge in Florida today declared the health-reform law unconstitutional. This was the case in which Georgia and 25 other states were plaintiffs against the Obama administration.
We’ll have to wait to see what the rationale was, but U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson had hinted before that he was focusing on the individual mandate, which he has called a “power…simply without prior precedent.” I’ll update with details from the ruling as soon as I can.
We now have two district-court judges who have said the mandate is fine, and two who have said it’s unconstitutional. That means today’s ruling will take away, at least for now, the silly left-wing argument after a judge in Virginia ruled against ObamaCare that the law was somehow on solid footing because two judges were for it and only one was against it. That argument was silly because it only takes one case to proceed to the Supreme Court for the high-court justices to rule on the law definitively. And that is, after all, where we are headed eventually.
So, for all intents and purposes, we’re still at strike one — waiting for one or more of the cases to move through the appeals process (potential strike two) and on to the Supreme Court (potential strike three). Still, it’s a good sign that the case with the most plaintiffs, more than half of the nation’s state attorneys general, is proceeding.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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