Posted by: Deborah D | February 1, 2011

Judge Vinson: Obamacare unconstitutional.

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Judge Vinson: Obamacare unconstitutional.

Yesterday’s ruling by Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson has proclaimed Obamacare unconstitutional, and according to the Cato Institute, that should be enough to stop Obamacare in its tracks. All in all, it was a great day to be an American. Generally when a judge rules something unconstitutional, although he did not specifically say – stop enforcing this law – the executive branch generally awaits a ruling from the Supreme Court before they continue enacting the offending law. This is from Ilya Shapiro:

In discussing whether to issue an injunction – a judicial command to do or refrain from doing something — the judge determined that his declaratory judgment in this context was the same as an injunction.  That is, a federal court saying that a piece of legislation is unconstitutional is effectively the same as a decision mandating the government to act:

Declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court. [Quoting a D.C. Circuit opinion written by none other than then-Judge Antonin Scalia]

In short, if I read the opinion (plus this final judgment) correctly — quite apart from both the lofty philosophical principles I applaud Judge Vinson for adopting and the nitty-gritty technical details of his individual mandate analysis — Obamacare is dead in its tracks.  Now, Judge Vinson himself or the Eleventh Circuit (or even the Supreme Court) may issue an emergency stay of this or any other part of the ruling, but as of right now, the federal government must stop implementing Obamacare.

We can’t count on this administration following protocol. They believe in making things up as they go along. Vigilance is needed both by the House oversight committees and by the American people. Read all of Shapiro here:

The lawyers at Power Line Blog have a good review of the details. Here’s just a bit of it from John Hinderaker:

Judge Vinson held that the Commerce Clause cannot be stretched so far as to require individual Americans to buy health insurance approved by the government. This conclusion may not seem surprising to those who simply read the clause–It gives Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”–but beginning in the 1930s, broad interpretations of the clause have greatly expanded federal powers…

Judge Vinson held that valid legislation under the Commerce Clause must regulate an “activity:”

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. … 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.

He next rejected the federal government’s claim that failing to buy health insurance is an activity:

The Commerce Clause originally applied to the trade and exchange of goods as it sought to eliminate trade barriers by and between the states. Over the years, the Clause’s reach has been expanded from covering actual interstate commerce (and its channels and instrumentalities) to intrastate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. It has even been applied to activities that involve the mere consumption of a product (even if there is no legal commercial interstate market for that product). To now hold that Congress may regulate the so-called “economic decision” to not purchase a product or service in anticipation of future consumption is a “bridge too far.” It is without logical limitation and far exceeds the existing legal boundaries established by Supreme Court precedent.

Because I find both the “uniqueness” and “economic decision” arguments unpersuasive, I conclude that the individual mandate seeks to regulate economic inactivity, which is the very opposite of economic activity. And because activity is required under the Commerce Clause, the individual mandate exceeds Congress’ commerce power, as it is understood, defined, and applied in the existing Supreme Court case law.

Judge Vinson concluded by finding that the individual mandate is such an essential and intertwined aspect of the statute’s overall regulatory scheme that it cannot be severed from the rest of the statute, and, therefore, Obamacare in its entirety is unconstitutional.

Read all of the Power Line guys here:

Jennifer Rubin over at the Right Turn blog at the Washington Post has noted that Democrats can complain all they want, but they themselves are to blame for the ruling as it pertains to severing the Obamacare mandate to buy insurance from the remainder of the Obamacare law.

Liberals are particularly perturbed by Judge Vinson’s ruling on severability, the determination as to whether the individual mandate is so central to the law as to make the law unrecognizable and unenforceable without it. But here, the left has only the administration and the Democratic Congress to blame. From the opinion (the defendants are the Obama officials):

Having determined that the individual mandate exceeds Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, and cannot be saved by application of the Necessary and Proper Clause, the next question is whether it is severable from the remainder of the Act. In considering this issue, I note that the defendants have acknowledged that the individual mandate and the Act’s health insurance reforms, including the guaranteed issue and community rating, will rise or fall together as these reforms “cannot be severed from the [individual mandate].”

Oops. Not some crazy judge, but the administration was the source of the notion that the individual mandate can’t be severed from the rest of the law.

Read all of Rubin here:

The Wall Street Journal talks about the big implications of the decision: The direction our country has taken and will take in the future. Will we stay the country of individual liberty or will be become another failed socialist state, people who have to be directed by those on high? Are there any limits on the powers of the federal government?

As Judge Vinson took pains to emphasize, the case is not really about health care at all, or the wisdom—we would argue the destructiveness—of the newest entitlement. Rather, the Florida case goes to the core of the architecture of the American system, and whether there are any remaining limits on federal control. Judge Vinson’s 78-page ruling in favor of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, among others, is by far the best legal vindication to date of Constitutional principles that form the outer boundaries of federal power.

At the heart of the states’ lawsuit is the individual mandate, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance or be penalized for not doing so. “Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company (essentially for life) just for being alive and residing in the United States,” Judge Vinson writes.  Snip –

the Commerce Clause applied only to “clear and inarguable activity,” Judge Vinson writes, the emphasis his. It never applied to inactivity like not buying health insurance, which has “no impact whatsoever” on interstate commerce. He argues that breaching this frontier converts the clause into a general police power of the kind that the Constitution reserves to the states. As the High Court put it in Lopez, obliterating this distinction would “create a completely centralized government.”

The Administration contends that not purchasing insurance—inactivity—is really activity, because everyone will eventually need medical care and their costs will be transferred to the insured. But Judge Vinson dissects that as a “radical departure” from the Constitution and U.S. case law. It is “not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted,” he writes. “Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”

Pat yourselves on the back, Americans. You raised a ruckus that provided your states and your congressmen with the fortitude to halt the progression of this country off of the socialism cliff by recognizing the insanity of the Obamacare law. We can’t stop until this Dracula-like law is killed once and for all with a stake thrust deeply in its heart. Read it all here:


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  1. Judge Vinson: Obamacare unconstitutional. «…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  2. The administration has a history of ignoring court rulings (i.e. the injunction on the moratorium in the gulf. I am hoping that the states involved will go to the judge to request a remedy. Also now that this is the ruling the House should ensure there is NO money going to any department for funding the now illegal law.

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