Another judge says ObamaCare is unconstitutional (Updated)

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.

And this:

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.

UPDATE at 4:25 p.m.: Via the blog Volokh Conspiracy, here’s the text of the ruling.

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)

ORIGINAL POST:

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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303 comments Add your comment

Here Spot

January 31st, 2011
3:20 pm

Wyle Kingfield

January 31st, 2011
3:30 pm

Televise the Death Panels in prime time. Can even have celebrity judges. Should get a 50 share.

Tommy Maddox

January 31st, 2011
3:39 pm

Y E S ! ! !

Boy I love the law.

barking frog

January 31st, 2011
3:40 pm

Two to Two. Toe to Toe. Maybe a Judge will decide.

1961_Boomer

January 31st, 2011
3:45 pm

Weight problem? The Commerce clause says it is in the public interest for you will pay to be confined to a weight loss clinic.

GM failing? The Commerce clause says it is in the public interest that you be mandated to purchase any new car from GM.

Housing bust? The Commerce clause says where you will live and how much you will pay the owner of the home.

If this is allowed to stand, there is no limit to how the Commerce clause can be used to force you to purchase something from a government designated entity for “the good of society”. If this is allowed to stand, democracy and free enterprise fall, and fascism becomes our new way of life. We will purchase things from government designated/blessed sellers for the good of society, and failure to do so will be a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.

Grasshopper

January 31st, 2011
3:59 pm

“If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain,” Judge Vinson wrote.

How people cannot understand and agree with the above statement is beyond all comprehension. Way to go Judge Vinson!

sally

January 31st, 2011
4:03 pm

Yes! I love pre-existing condition clauses.

hsn

January 31st, 2011
4:08 pm

Ok Cons,
Please stop wetting your pants prematurely over this “ruling” by an “activist judge”…. To all those states arguing “It is unconstitutional for the government to force people to buy individual health insurance,” I ask.. Why is it “constitutonal” for the government to force indivuals to buy AUTO insurance in EACH OF THESE STATES challenging the individual mandate?… In fact, people are even jailed in these states for driving without individual auto insurance. If someone who doesn’t have health insurance CONTRACTS a communicable disease and is untreated, we all pay in health and from our wallets, just as we do when an uninsured auto driver gets in an accident… If the individual health mandate is unconstitutional, then so should the individual auto insurance.

I see this thing going all the way to the Supreme Court, at which point, the cons will lose and be muzzled, as usual!

hsn

cc

January 31st, 2011
4:17 pm

to say the dems overreached is an understatement

Peadawg

January 31st, 2011
4:19 pm

LOL…doesn’t the car insurance “argument” get old after it’s shot down so many time? Not everyone has to have auto insurance. Also, auto insurance is a state regulation…not a federal gov’t regulation. Apples and oranges hsn, apples and oranges.

CJ

January 31st, 2011
4:26 pm

Kyle: “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.

Actually, I believe the score is somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 to 2. Check me on this, but I believe that the Obama administration prevailed in 14 cases–12 of the suits were dismissed entirely and the other two ruled in their favor of the mandates (the two that Kyle references above).

In addition, it should be pointed out that the two rulings against the mandates were by Republican appointees who, with these rulings, made decisions that would overturned legislation passed by the elected branches of government, thereby meeting the very definition of “judicial activism.” (I thought conservatives were against that sort of thing.)

Finally, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson called the individual mandate a “power…simply without prior precedent.” That’s not correct. Congress passed – and President John Adams signed a law creating a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors purchase health insurance. As president, Thomas Jefferson supported these hospitals and sought to improve them.

In addition–

*President George Washington signed a law that required much of the country to purchase a firearm, ammunition, and other equipment in case they needed to be called up for militia service. Many of the members of Congress who voted for this mandate were members of the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution.

*The Civil Rights Act of 1964 compelled business owners to engage in transactions they considered undesirable—hiring and otherwise doing business with African Americans.

*The Affordable Care Act is not even the only federal law requiring someone to carry insurance. The Price-Anderson Act of 1957 requires nuclear power plants to purchase liability insurance and the Flood Disaster Protection Act requires many homeowners to carry flood insurance.

*Other laws require individuals to perform jury service, file tax returns, and register for selective service.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/is_the_individual_mandate_unpr.html

hsn

January 31st, 2011
4:29 pm

Peadawg said, “Not everyone has to have auto insurance”.. Really? If you are vehicle owner without auto insurance, how do you renew your tag?? I have never read any scenario where an unisured driver stopped by a state police (state government) go free because “not everyone has to have auto insurance”…. Have heard any police officer make that argument??

…And why are you splitting hairs?… Whether it from the state GOVERNMENT, or the federal GOVERNMENT, you either do not want GOVERNMENT telling you what to buy or you do. Why is the federal GOVERNMENT only the villain all the time? I don’t want government overreaching in my life period — whther it is the state or federal.

hsn

hg

January 31st, 2011
4:31 pm

one step closer to single payer

TrickleDownStupid

January 31st, 2011
4:37 pm

You people act as if these judges are truly impartial to politics and a specific parties ideology.

w

January 31st, 2011
4:37 pm

Who didn’t know that this obamination was unconstitutional?
Who also didn’t know that Barry does not care?

ralph

January 31st, 2011
4:40 pm

so is it now unconstitutional for the goverment to force me to buy car insurance? No I still have to buy insurance on car if I drive, why don’t you taliban republicans do something about that, file suit against Georgia saying it is illegal for me to have to buy car insurance.

ATL Guy

January 31st, 2011
4:43 pm

What the Republicans have done, and will begin to complain about when it’s applied against them, is that they can reverse laws on the books that they don’t agree with. It is a precedent that, if it was done by the Democrats, would’ve stopped the Iraqi war from happening. The Republicans have given the Democrats the pass to attack any partisan laws passed by a Republican president. The judges who are siding with the Republicans are also putting themselves into a very tight box when it comes to elevation to a higher office. They are going to be labelled partisans with very little chance of consideration.

Greg

January 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

hsn, the distinction is simple.

No one mandates that you drive a car, so car insurance is not a mandate.
It’s kind of hard to get around the mandate for health insurance because the law requires it for everyone who is living. The only way around it is to die.

Donald Roberts

January 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

@hsn, you missed a key difference between auto insurance and the federal health insurance. The auto insurance laws are state. The US constitution is the federal law, not the state law. There is no federal auto insurance mandate.
Your argument is also flawed in the comparison anyway. If you choose the privilege to drive, a condition of that privilege is auto insurance. You can opt out by opting out of the privilege to drive. To opt out of health care, you have to opt out of life itself. Defeinitely not an apples to oranges comparison.

Bert

January 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

Regarding the auto insurance comparison: Can I get you to pay to repair my already wrecked car? The dents pre-existed but don’t make me pay more than Joe Never Wrecked.

TrickleDownStupid

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

There isn’t anything apples and oranges about federal or state laws. If so, why is 18 the legal voting age for all states. I’m sure you nuts would be okay with Georgia mandating 21 to vote; while Florida and Alabama allowed their 16 year olds to vote.

Some things should be mandated at the federal level; because the states can’t be trusted to do anything right.

Get Real

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

hsn

Are you required to buy a car? Obamacare requires purchase of a servcie/commodity just for being a citizen and physically exisitng…big difference

Rudy Gonzales

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

WOW – The states are in violation and have passed mandatory auto insurance and are grossly unconstitutional.

ConsRule

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

@HSN, people don’t have to own a car….they buy one because they want it. If you can’t see the difference you should get back to your homeroom class and quit skipping school.

sally

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

Yawn! Wake me up when the Supremes start singing.

retiredds

January 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

2 for 2. In another 2, the Supreme Court. They will have the last say. It will be fun to see the gladiators spar during that time.

ConsRule

January 31st, 2011
4:46 pm

@Rudy, again……IF you choose to buy a car you must own auto insurance. Can you not see the difference between this and health insurance? I’m new to GA, are all GA residents this stupid?

Kyle Wingfield

January 31st, 2011
4:46 pm

CJ @ 4:26: That comment is a collection of irrelevance and misdirection. Not a single one of those cases makes a difference here, because none of them made a type of inactivity illegal by placing a mandate from which one could not escape.

That is, if you so desired, you could have decided not to be a sailor; not to own a business; not to operate a nuclear power plant; or not to live in a flood plain. And requirements about jury duty, filing tax returns and registering for the draft are not related to commerce, as the insurance mandate is.

But if, despite all that, it brings you comfort that some other judges may have dismissed some lawsuits — I’m not aware of them or, if they did happen, the circumstances under which they may have been dismissed that would have nothing to do with the merits of the law (e.g., lack of standing) — even though only one lawsuit is necessary for the Supreme Court to decide the case, then good for you.

Derp

January 31st, 2011
4:47 pm

Uh, the federal government doesn’t force you to buy the car that the state requires you insure to protect other people from your remarkable ability to kill and maim while driving a 2 ton death machine at 70mph and txting your bff.

There’s really no comparison to personal health insurance, which is not to be confused with health care which seems to be quite neglected in this law.

Kyle Wingfield

January 31st, 2011
4:48 pm

Donald Roberts @ 4:44 hit on one of the major points regarding the faulty analogy involving auto insurance. The U.S. Constitution grants different powers to state governments than it does to the federal government. Period.

Business Owner

January 31st, 2011
4:49 pm

hsn:

Really? Your argument has no founding whatsoever. The law requires you carry LIABILITY insurance on your car only. Which means that the insurance covers the person you hit not yourself. This is protecting the other individual. Forcing someone to buy something for their own consumption is entirely different. Its the same as saying eating vegetables is better for you than chips so you must buy 2 lbs of vegetable per individual per month. Good for this judge to stand up and say what many of us have known all along.

Truth

January 31st, 2011
4:51 pm

Local chapters of a powerful national union that spent nearly $30 million to help President Obama get elected are among the fortunate few to get waivers from inconvenient provisions of the contentious healthcare law.
The information, revealed today by a conservative news site, comes a week after this blog reported that a disproportionately high number of Obamacare waivers are being granted to the president’s allies in a secretive process. Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have issued more than 200 exemptions—mostly to the president’s financial supporters—from some of the more burdensome provisions of the healthcare reform law.
In early October Judicial Watch filed a public records request to obtain information on the shady deals, but the Obama Health Department flipped the finger and Judicial Watch was forced to sue. The agency blew off its legally required deadline to produce the records without providing any sort of justification for withholding them, a common occurrence when the government wants to keep damaging information from the public.
Though the process has been kept from the public, the list of exemptions is quite revealing. For instance, over a third of the more than 1.5 million employees covered by the waivers are union members even though unionized workers make up only 7% of the private workforce. Forty three union organizations have been granted Obamacare waivers so far and the number is expected to grow.
They include three local chapters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which spent $28 million to support Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to a union document linked in the news story. Of interesting note is that one of the SEIU chapters—Local 25—is in Obama’s hometown of Chicago and also supported his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. In 2008, the national union endorsed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nationally, the politically-connected SEIU has 2.2 million members that include security guards, healthcare workers and janitors. The waivers allow various union health insurance plans to limit the amount they’ll spend on a policy holder’s annual medical coverage, even though Obamacare eliminates such annual limits.

AX

January 31st, 2011
4:52 pm

Single payer, here we come!

bob

January 31st, 2011
4:52 pm

hsn, an activist judge ? The commerce clause was written to allow one state to engage in commerce with another state. And I am 49 and have never been forced by the commerce clause to buy auto insurance. You spent allot of time wasting out time with the auto comparison and will agree with it when you show us one person ever forced by law to buy it.

The Right Brothers

January 31st, 2011
4:55 pm

If we are all fortunate, the insurance companies will take advantage of this opportunity to dump all compassionate conservative Republicans for their pre-existing condition — Stoopid. Besides, there’s no cure for it.

bob

January 31st, 2011
4:55 pm

ralph, don’t take your car on public streets and us taliban won’t bother you. whiner !

bob

January 31st, 2011
4:57 pm

Trickledown, how has education done since the fed took it over ?

Get Real

January 31st, 2011
4:59 pm

ConsRule

NO, some of us are quite smart but like in every state, there is a shallow end to the gene pool

Get Real

January 31st, 2011
5:01 pm

Truth

I believe the exemptions are now over 700

bob

January 31st, 2011
5:02 pm

Not only does the law not pass the commerce argument, how can it pass equal protection under the law argument. You can keep your plan if you like it, or if you are in a union that donates money to me, if not, you can’t keep it. Joe Wilson was right, Obama is a liar.

American

January 31st, 2011
5:03 pm

Obama’s presidency will be ruled unconstitutional once it has been proven Obama was born in Kenya – not Hawaii, just as his paternal grandmother said all along !

Can you say, President Biden ? ! ? !

AX

January 31st, 2011
5:04 pm

What’s funny is how all the OTP Homers complain about socialized this and that, but whose phone and electric service had to be mandated by the Feds (wiring rural areas is cost-prohibitive, and the people who live in rural areas are usually too broke to pay the true cost of these services). The Right only wants socialism when it’s for them.

The Right Brothers

January 31st, 2011
5:04 pm

Any Republican worth two cents would drop any health insurance coverage they currently have. It’s not only their right, it’s their duty to opt out. Health insurance is for sick people and that’s the way it should stay. And what is this waste of money called Medicaid. That needs to go. It is just a total waste of good money. And that Medicare. It doesn’t pay for itself. It too is a total waste of taxpayer money. Get rid of all of them now. Get out on the streets and demand it. Kyle, have you cancelled your health insurance yet, you wussy.

VERITAS

January 31st, 2011
5:07 pm

Once again God Almighty has given the United States another chance to redeem itself, and be a beacon of freedom throughout the world.

These godless, big government, socialist windbags are about to get stuffed back into their rat hole !

hsn

January 31st, 2011
5:08 pm

@ Greg and Get Real,
— You made my point for me. No one mandates that you choose to buy a car. It is also true that no one mandates that you choose to live… But that was for laughs! Seriously, I don’t see anything wrong with the individual mandate because it will LOWER costs for everybody. That is what the concept of ANY insurance policy is.. Inherently, an insurance policy is a “socialistic” policy, that relies on mass purchases to make it affordable for everyone. The current argument is that no one is turned down in the ER even when they don’t have insurance..But that is exactly the root of the problem.. The “free” ER treatments are REALLY not “free”.. Somebody has to pay for them.. So, in the end, we all pay in heigher premiums!

hsn

hsn

January 31st, 2011
5:10 pm

@ Business Owner
– The law requires a LIABILITY insurance because a car cannot “hit” itself. But that is different with human health. Humans cannot ONLY make themselves sick, they can also INFECT others with their sickness.. See the difference?… In end, we all pay for higher premiums for those without insurance.

hsn

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 31st, 2011
5:14 pm

obozo is unconstitutional.

Just sayin…

bob

January 31st, 2011
5:17 pm

hsn, how about making people pay for their care in ERs ? It’s simple, make people pay their bills. And please tell us how letting people get sick, then getting insured will lower costs.

The Right Brothers

January 31st, 2011
5:17 pm

Kyle,

May all your meals out be prepared by someone that opted out of health care.

Jeremiah

January 31st, 2011
5:19 pm

This is great news! The auto insurance comparisons are being made by obvious morons who have no clue what they are talking about. Obamacare is Unconstitutional, and this is one step of many to ensure that this horrible law is repealed. Great job with the article and updates Kyle!