ObamaCare Comes One Step Closer to U.S. Supreme Court

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Friday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to strike down the core provision in President Obama’s signature health care law has many believing the case may head to the Supreme Court as early as this fall.

In a 300-page decision handed down on Friday, a divided three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit sided with 26 states in its determination that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by requiring Americans to buy insurance or face penalties.

“Congress may regulate commercial actors. It may forbid certain commercial activity. It may enact hundreds of new laws and federally-funded programs, as it has elected to do in this massive 975- page Act. But what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die,” the judge’s wrote.

“It cannot be denied that the individual mandate is an unprecedented exercise of congressional power.”

Even though the Court disagreed with an earlier judge’s ruling that the unconstitutionality of the mandate requires the entire law to be discarded, this decision is considered to be a blow to the Obama Administration because it sets the stage for a contentious Supreme Court battle that would conclude just months before the 2012 presidential election. The Supreme Court is much more likely to step in now that two federal courts have issued rulings in opposition to one another. In June, the 6th Circuit ruled that the mandate was constitutional.

Court watchers also say the decision by the 11th Circuit was a win for those who believe in limited government.

“Federalists won today,” said George Scoville of United Liberty. “This is another victory for constitutionalism and those who believe the government is best which governs least – that the U.S. Constitution created a limited government with specific enumerated powers.”

The Family Research Council (FRC) applauded the ruling, but disagrees with the Court’s decision to uphold the rest of the law as constitutional. The FRC filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that because the law does not contain a “severability clause,” which allows parts of a law to be struck down while leaving the rest of the law intact, the individual mandate is inseparable from the 2010 law, and thus the whole law is unconstitutional.

“I applaud the Court’s decision striking down Obamacare’s individual mandate,” says FRC president Tony Perkins. “The federal government has never had the constitutional power to regulate commercial inaction. On the other hand, the Family Research Council participated in this case by filing a friend of the court brief, and FRC’s Ken Klukowski correctly argued that the individual mandate is so tightly enmeshed with the statute’s other provisions that they cannot be separated, especially since the law does not contain a severability clause.”

Perkins goes on to say that regardless of these recent decisions, citizens should not lose sight of the fact that “passage of this law was a terrible mistake, and every effort should be made to ensure its repeal.”

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