Second Court Strikes Down HCR (breaking)

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 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.

The case is State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10-cv-00091, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).

Reuters Feed:

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.

Pundit Tweets:

AdamSerwer AdamSerwer

I mean that literally–Vinson links to this @reasonmag vid in his ruling

daveweigel daveweigel

Wow, Vinson cites Boston Tea Party in decision. Subtle!

benpolitico Ben Smith

RT @rickklein: Judge Vinson says hi to the tea party on p. 42 of his ruling (h/t @JimPethokoukis)

daveweigel daveweigel

RT @brianbeutler: Vinson’s redefining judicial activism in a way even Roberts doesn’t accept

daveweigel daveweigel

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: 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

In other related news, CNN reports that all the Senate Republicans appear ready to strike down the law.

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.”

21 Comments on “Second Court Strikes Down HCR (breaking)”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    Yup, just saw this Dak.

    As I said on the Morning post, I just got my denial letter for health insurance. They are not saying the word pre-existing. Which is bothersome. They are calling it ” This decision only pertains to amount of coverage you requested is excess of the guaranteed coverage amount. ” We did not “specify” an amount of coverage. We applied for the only insurance that Walmart offers. The letter refers to specific MRI and scans that I have had. I understand that statement to mean, we feel that your MRI shows you will need more expensive health insurance and we aren’t going to give it to you. It is just weird that the word Pre-existing does not come up in the letter at all. Just the bit about coverage is in excess of the guaranteed coverage amount. That is very worrisome to me. Does that mean then that I will be denied Obama care because of the way the Walmart denial letter is worded?

    As I said. I will be writing about the entire process here on SD. It is just the beginning of a lot of crap I will be facing trying to get the One’s healthcare.

    • dakinikat says:

      Health insurance companies are merely money collectors that are in the business to deny coverage on all but the most basic stuff. It’s a total racket.

    • It is just weird that the word Pre-existing does not come up in the letter at all. Just the bit about coverage is in excess of the guaranteed coverage amount.

      I’m really not surprised because this is what we kept talking about back when Obama was talking about trigger options and public option only being a tiny sliver. We knew then that the pre-existing condition wasn’t really ending, it was just going to be masked as junk insurance that wouldn’t give people the actual care they needed for their actual pre-exisiting conditions. Stateofdisbelief I think was really good at getting into the weeds on this one and pointing it out step by step.

  2. Jadzia says:

    If Obama thinks the Fourth Circuit is going to save his ass, he needs to go back to law school.

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s headed to the Supreme Court. That’s going to get interesting.

      • Jadzia says:

        I think Obama may win once he gets to the Supremes. He gets Breyer (who loves admin law), Kagan, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor for sure. He doesn’t get Scalia, Thomas, or Alito. Roberts and Kennedy in the middle. Kennedy tends to be fairly deferential to government authority, notwithstanding his opinions in Boumediene and Lawrence; Roberts I think is a question mark–when he was asked his views on the commerce clause during his nomination hearing he was incredibly weasly.

      • votermom says:

        Would he really get Ginsburg? 😦

      • Jadzia says:

        Well, one never knows. Ginsburg has been a disappointment to many folks.

  3. jawbone says:

    Gee, Medicare seems to be settled law constitutionally. Too bad Obama took Medicare for All Improved “off the table.” Would have been so easy to just extend it and protect so, so many Americans.

    Of course, he had to keep his sponsors in The Powers That Be satisfied. And he had to find a way to protect the profitability of the Big Health Industry players, especially the insurance companies who have been lusting after mandated customers your years now. It’s terrible, but overturning this turd of a law might be the best way to get to actualhealth care.

    Oh, what could have been if we hadn’t elected a St Ronnie acolyte to the presidency…. And who would have voted for him if they’d known he wanted to be more like Reagan than FDR?

  4. mjames says:

    It just makes me want to weep. The Dems had their chance to fix the health care problem and instead they chose to go with upping the income for the health insurance companies. Now? Either way it’s a disaster. Nobody will be able to afford the mandated Obama care if it survives and no way will Versailles deal with the problem in the foreseeable future if Obama care falls. So we can all just die. My god, these people are craven.

    The Supreme Court has become 100% politicized. So the only question really is: what do the corporations want? Cuz whatever they want, they’ll get. 5-4 if the corporations want the law to die; 9-0 if the corporations want the law to stand. My bet is on death, just like for the rest of us.

  5. Pilgrim says:

    I sure don’t think John Roberts would be a vote for healthcare.

    • mjames says:

      Well, what IS a vote FOR health care? Is it a vote FOR Obama care? Or is it a vote AGAINST Obama care – which is essentially a health insurance guaranteed income act, otherwise known as corporate welfare?

      So, IMO, if the corporations decide they want this act to stand, Roberts will appear to be voting FOR health care, but will not be doing so in fact. He will be voting for the corporations as he always does.

      I just don’t know what the corporations want yet. First, they have to figure out if there’s a way to wring more money out of us and the government – at no cost to them.

  6. I’m updating with Hillary headlines in the thread “downstairs” btw, for anyone who’s interested. Now back to your regularly scheduled Dkat-liveblogging!

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  8. Valhalla says:

    The best thing at this point would be if the mandate were declared unconstitutional, but severable from the rest of the law (I think — I’m not sure about a lot of the other money-shifting going on away from Medicare and such). Then the items like getting rid of lifetime caps and pre-existing condition clauses would still be valid. The latter may be mostly kabuki to some insurance cos., but then at least there would be some basis for lawsuits. A few big wins, esp. w/ punitive damages for bad faith refusals (and that’s one thing we can count on — bad faith from the big insurance parasites), and there’ll be some shifting around.

    Of course, Medicare for All would be the best for everyone, but progress there is probably on a longer track than even these SCt-destined cases.

  9. Kendall says:

    It is always hard to find informed people on this topic, you seem like you know what you are writing on! Appreciate it