For the second time in recent months, a federal judge found one part of the Obama health reform unconstitutional, but this time went a step further, striking down the entire law.
In his 78 page decision, Judge Roger Vinson said the Congress had exceeded its authority in approving the ‘individual mandate,’ which would force Americans to buy their own insurance starting in 2014.
“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” the judge wrote.
While that had been expected by many in the political and legal arena, Judge Vinson’s next step was not.
“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”
It was the first time a judge had declared the entire law unconstitutional, and it left the White House in a bad mood.
“Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching,” wrote Obama aide Stephanie Cutter on the White House web site. “
The judge’s decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent.”
Over at the Justice Department, officials made clear they would challenge the ruling immediately.
“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe – as other federal courts have found – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional,” said a Justice Department statement.
In a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials went even further in their attacks, labeling the ruling “odd and unconventional” and “well out of the mainstream” – predicting it would not stand the scrutiny of higher courts.
The political reaction went as expected, with Democrats blasting the ruling and Republicans hailing it as evidence that the entire law should be scrapped right now by the Congress.
“We strongly believe that health reform is constitutional, and is consistent with longstanding precedents of the Supreme Court,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“This ruling confirms what Americans have been saying for months,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The health spending bill is a massive overreach and Democrats ‘exceeded the bounds’ of Congressional authority under the Constitution in passing the law with the individual mandate,” McConnell added in a statement.
No matter what the two parties said in the aftermath of this ruling, it will keep moving up the chain – ultimately many believe, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If you want to read the health ruling, it is posted here