A federal Judge, District Judge Henry Hudson, has ruled that the individual mandate, requiring Americans purchase health insurance as written into the Obamacare law, exceeds the power of Congress under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
This is the first direct federal ruling against the Obamacare law, declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional, which opponents have been maintaining since it was signed into law.
Among attorneys general, Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli was one of the first to pursue a challenge the health care package approved by Congress earlier this year, filing his lawsuit moments after President Barack Obama signed it into law in March.
Now, a federal court ruling released Monday gives Cuccinelli another distinction: He’s the first attorney general to receive a ruling supporting his argument that Congress overstepped its authority by including a provision in the law requiring the uninsured to obtain coverage or face penalties.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson in his opinion concludes that “the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision . . . exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.”
In his ruling, Hudson ordered that the individual mandate be severed from the legislation.
That provision is a key piece of the law and the financial structure of the package. The judge declined to grant Cuccinelli’s request for an injunction against the law, in part because central pieces of the act don’t take effect for another couple years.
Obama administration attorneys are expected to appeal the decision, and many legal scholars expect the case, and other related lawsuits, to ultimately come before the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the Obama administration takes this all the way to the Supreme Court, it could signify that this battle over Obamacare will tread on the 2012 elections and that does not bode well for Barack Obama's reelection chances.
Recent polling shows that the majority of likely voters (60 percent) still favor the repeal of the law.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 60% of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law while 34% are opposed. As has been the case since the law was first passed, those who favor repeal feel more passionately than those who want to keep the law--46% Strongly Favor repeal while just 23% who are Strongly Opposed. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Total support for repeal is up four points from a week ago but consistent with opposition to the law for months. Support for repeal has ranged from 50% to 63% in weekly tracking since Democrats in Congress passed the law in late March.
The longer the legal battle takes with Obama pitting himself up against the majority of Americans that opposed the law before it was passed and continue to oppose it, the worse this will be for Obama and Democrats as the 2012 elections draw near.
[Update] 42 page PDF of ruling found here.
Specifically page #37 and #38 which states:
Earlier in this opinion, the Court concluded that Congress lacked power under the Commerce Clause, or associated Necessary and Proper Clause, to compel an individual to involuntarily engage in a private commercial transaction, as contemplated by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision. The absence of a constitutionally viable exercise of this enumerated power is fatal to the accompanying sanction for noncompliance. The Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States intimated as much during oral argument on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, "if it is unconstitutional, then the penalty would fail as well." (Tr. 21:10-11, July 1,2010.)
A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.
The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance-or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage-it's about an individual's right to choose to participate. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution confers upon Congress only discrete enumerated governmental powers. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. See U.S. Canst. amend. X; Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 919, 117 S. Ct. 2365, 2376-77 (1997).
On careful review, this Court must conclude that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-specifically the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision-exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.
[Update #2]- H/T To Le-gal-In-Sur-Rec-Tion for the embeddable PDF ruling. (shown below)
Richmond Times-Dispatch and USA Today are also reporting on this.
Toronto Star, Bloomberg, CNN and Washington Post articles just came out as well.