Second Court Strikes Down HCR (breaking)Posted: January 31, 2011
A Florida District Court has struck down all of the HCR law.
This is developing story as the ruling has just been released and it’s a long one (78 pages). A Federal judge in Florida has ruled the entire health care reform law unconstitutional because of the provision that mandates that all Americans must buy Insurance. He hasn’t stopped implementation, however.
It looks like he’s relying on some section of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, but there are some truly bizarre things in this ruling. You may recall that a Virginia judge ruled that portion of the law unconstitutional without throwing out the entire thing.
Vinson basically says that Congress cannot require people to buy a product. He then goes into page after page of what looks like a libertarian view of American History. It’s very strange.
Dahlialithwick Dahlia Lithwick
J Vinson strikes down whole healthcare reform law — finds not severable
From the David Weigel article at Slate:
The money graf, in which Vinson strikes down the entire law — which, because of the mess in the Senate and House, lacked severability:
Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
From Bloomberg.com: Obama Health-Care Reform Act Unconstitutional, Judge Says in 26-State Suit
Vinson’s ruling may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, is already slated in May to hear challenges to two conflicting federal court rulings in that state, one of which upheld the legislation while the other invalidated part of it. The U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately be asked to consider the issue.
The 955-page law bars insurers from denying coverage to people who are sick and from imposing lifetime limits on costs. It also includes pilot projects to test ideas like incentives for better results and bundled payments to medical teams for patient care.
In an Oct. 14 decision letting the case to proceed, Vinson narrowed the issues to whether the act exceeded the constitutional powers of Congress by requiring all Americans over the age of 18 to obtain coverage and expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the federal-state program offering care for the indigent.
Vinson has suggested strongly that he too will rule the individual mandate oversteps constitutional limits on federal authority. He may also move to invalidate the entire law, by granting the plaintiff states’ request for an injunction to halt its implementation.
“The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent,” Vinson wrote in an earlier opinion in October.
Wow, Vinson cites Boston Tea Party in decision. Subtle!
benpolitico Ben Smith
This is the most attention Vinson’s got since he legalized “The Last Temptation of Christ.”
Here’s part of the Constitutional Law History Lecture in the ruling:
It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress
can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel
an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party
merely by asserting — as was done in the Act — that compelling the actual
transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects
interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that
Congress could do almost anything it wanted. 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. 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 for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power”
[Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only.
Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended. See id. at 592
(quoting Hamilton at the New York Convention that there would be just cause to
reject the Constitution if it would allow the federal government to “penetrate the
recesses of domestic life, and control, in all respects, the private conduct of
individuals”) (Thomas, J., concurring).
Oh, and the document has hot links including this one to Reason TV which is basically a libertarian propaganda machine.
See ReasonTV, Wheat, Weed, and Obamacare: How
the Commerce Clause Made Congress All-Powerful, August 25, 2010, available at:
http://reason.tv/video/show/wheat-weed-and-obamacare-how-t. When I mentioned
this to the defendants’ attorney at oral argument, he allowed for the possibility that
“maybe Dean Chemerinsky is right.” See Tr. at 69. Therefore, the potential for this
assertion of power has received at least some theoretical consideration and has not
been ruled out as Constitutionally implausible.20
The GOP holds 47 seats in the Senate.
According to Sen. Jim DeMint’s office, 45 of them will co-sponsor the South Carolina Republican’s legislation – introduced last week – to fully repeal the health law. Republicans are “standing with the American people who are demanding we repeal this government takeover of health care,” DeMint said at the time.
DeMint’s office told CNN it did not yet have confirmation that Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran would sign on. But CNN contacted Cochran’s office and confirmed that he would.
That plus a few reliable blue dawgs sinks the entire law should Reid bring it to the floor for a vote. That’s doubtful, but still, what a mess!!! Some one sure needs to mention this is Romney’s little darling too before he gathers much steam. The Mass. law mandates coverage too but states seem to be giving long leashes to hang people these days. I’m waiting for them to revisit the Jim Crow laws next or rewrite new ones for Hispanics. They’re already using that same twisted logic to deny women reproductive health.
I just found this post at Forbe’s by David Whalen that seems like a pretty good explanation of the situation.
Vinson rejects the administration’s argument that the health care market is unique since nobody can truly opt out–and that not buying insurance is in itself an economic activity since the cost of care then falls on others. Vinson mocks this argument, writing: “Everyone must participate in the food market… under this logic, Congress could [mandate] that every adult purchase and consume wheat bread daily.” If they didn’t buy wheat bread they might have a bad diet which would put a strain on the health care system, he writes.
Later he offers another analogy: “Congress could require that everyone above a certain income threshold buy a General Motors automobile — now partially government-owned — because those who do not buy GM cars (or those who buy foreign cars) are adversely impacting commerce and a taxpayer-subsidized business.” Vinson concludes: “The individual mandate exceeds Congress’ commerce power, as it is understood, defined, and applied in the existing Supreme Court case law.”