By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A federal judge in Florida has struck down the entire health care reform law after ruling that the individual mandate, upon which the law depends, is unconstitutional.
Fox News is reporting that the ruling, handed down yesterday afternoon by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida said that as a result of the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate that requires people to buy insurance, the entire law must be declared void.
“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate,” Vinson wrote. “That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one-sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here,” Vinson wrote.
“While the individual mandate was clearly ‘necessary and essential’ to the act as drafted, it is not ‘necessary and essential’ to health care reform in general,” he continued. “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void.”
The individual mandate is indeed pivotal to the implementation of ObamaCare. It requires Americans to start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty, which is how the government intends to pay for extending coverage to an estimated 30 million Americans who are presently unable to buy insurance.
Because the Pensacola case involves 26 U.S. states, Vinson’s decision is considered to be of more consequence than several other rulings, such as a recent decision from a federal district judge in Richmond who came to the same conclusion as Vinson. Two other judges ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional.
As expected, supporters of ObamaCare are decrying Vinson’s decision.
“Judge Vinson’s decision is radical judicial activism run amok, and it will undoubtedly be reversed on appeal. The decision flies in the face of three other decisions, contradicts decades of legal precedent, and could jeopardize families’ health care security,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA to Fox News. “If this decision were allowed to stand, it would have devastating consequences for America’s families.”
But supporters of repeal, who continue to be among the majority in this contentious debate, believe Vinson made all the right conclusions.
“I applaud the ruling today by Judge Vinson,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who, prior to getting elected in November, helped lead the charge against the law. “In making his ruling, the judge has confirmed what many of us knew from the start — ObamaCare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people. … Patients should have more control over health care decisions than a federal government that is spending money faster than it can be printed.”
In light of Vinson’s decision, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC) is urging the Senate to act on a bill to repeal ObamaCare that has already passed in the House and is currently stalled in the upper chamber.
“As FRC, 26 states, and the majority of voters have argued, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t empower the federal government to strong-arm its citizens into spending their own money on health insurance,” Perkins said. “Any day now, we expect the U.S. Senate to vote on Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) legislation, S. 192, to repeal the health care law. After this lesson in Constitution 101, the Senate would save taxpayers a lot of time and money if they followed the lead of the House and repeal this unconstitutional law in its entirety. Only then can we move on to health care reform that both works and is constitutional.”
Government lawyers are expected to file an immediate appeal of the ruling.
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