Federal judge: Challenge to ObamaCare mandate can proceed to trial

posted at 5:00 pm on October 14, 2010 by Allahpundit

Arguably the biggest story of the day, even though it’s barely a story at all. One way or another, the mandate will end up before the Supreme Court. Maybe it’ll get there via this suit in Florida or maybe it’ll get there via the one pending in Virginia or just maybe it’ll get there on appeal from last week’s ruling in Michigan that the mandate is constitutional. There are a lot of roads to the high court being traveled right now; the chief point of interest in all these lower-court decisions is seeing which one will get ObamaCare there the fastest.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that parts of a lawsuit by 20 states seeking to void the Obama administration’s health care overhaul can go to trial, saying he wants hear additional arguments from both sides over whether the law is unconstitutional.

In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said it needs to be decided whether the plan violates the Constitution by requiring individuals to have health insurance or be penalized through taxes and by overburdening the states by expanding their Medicaid programs. Another federal judge in Michigan threw out a similar lawsuit last week…

The administration’s attorneys had told Vinson last month that without the regulatory power to ensure young and healthy people buy health insurance, the health care plan will not survive. They also argued it’s up to an individual taxpayer — not the states — to challenge the section requiring health insurance when it takes effect in 2015.

Here’s a list of the six counts alleged in the complaint. The first three dealing with the mandate are the sexy ones, but counts four, five, and six — arguing that the feds are basically trying to “commandeer” the states in enforcing this — are interesting as a federalist appeal to the conservative majority on the Court. One of the most famous federalist decisions of the Rehnquist Court is Printz v. United States, which announced the anti-commandeering doctrine; Scalia, Thomas, and most importantly Kennedy all joined in the majority opinion. The state attorneys general who filed this suit obviously are hoping that even if the Court finds the mandate okay on Commerce Clause grounds, the Printz case and the Tenth Amendment will ride to the rescue and give them a reason to find it unconstitutional anyway. In theory, the fact that those arguments are present in this suit but not the one in Michigan last week makes today’s ruling important: If this one gets to the Supremes rather than that one, they’ll have more arguments against ObamaCare to consider. Problem is, no one seriously believes that the Court is going to be bound on a subject as momentous as the constitutionality of universal health insurance by whatever happens in the lower courts. Yes, in theory, they’re supposed to follow whatever the factual findings are at the district court level, etc, but in practice of course they’ll deal with this as a matter of first impression. No big deal really, then, about today’s ruling. Although moral victories are certainly always nice.

Update: Here’s a passage from the decision for the Supremes to consider quoting if the conservatives end up in the majority on this one.

In his ruling, Vinson criticized Democrats for seeking to have it both ways when it comes to defending the mandate to buy insurance. During the legislative debate, Republicans chastised the proposal as a new tax on the middle class. Obama defended the payment as a penalty and not a tax, but the Justice Department has argued that legally, it’s a tax.

“Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an “Alice-in-Wonderland” tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check,” he wrote.

Vinson ruled that it’s a penalty, not a tax, and must be defended under the Commerce Clause and not Congress’ taxing authority.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Please keep it. He promised premiums would fall by 3000%

seven on October 14, 2010 at 5:02 PM

One way or another, the mandate will end up before the Supreme Court.

And then a Wise Latina and a Frumpy Harvard Military-supporter-but-not-really will take it and use it as red meat in front of 2 conservative males.

upinak on October 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM

One way or another, the mandate will end up before the Supreme Court.

I am holing all judgment until resident HotAir Legal Analyst Crr6 weighs in with his opinion.

Hopefully he can do it with out “Grammatical Errors”.

portlandon on October 14, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Tip to this federal judge: Tell your kids not to answer the door while home alone, there might be a few hundred union thugs loitering on the lawn.

Bishop on October 14, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Allahpundit is a wise latina, no?

Blake on October 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

I think Eric Holder just took a dump in his pants.

GarandFan on October 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Commerce Clause!

rickyricardo on October 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

portlandon on October 14, 2010 at 5:04 PM

you actually want a commentary? You are getting fluffy in your old age port.

upinak on October 14, 2010 at 5:08 PM

. Problem is, no one seriously believes that the Court is going to be bound on a subject as momentous as the constitutionality of universal health insurance by whatever happens in the lower courts.

Here we go – the battle begins.

jake-the-goose on October 14, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Arguably the biggest story of the day

But too bad all that will be on the news will be The View’s Maude and Prissy walking out on O’Really. Which is what they want because that stunt was cunningly staged.

Brat on October 14, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Obama defended the payment as a penalty and not a tax, but the Justice Department has argued that legally, it’s a tax.

Vinson ruled that it’s a penalty, not a tax, and must be defended under the Commerce Clause and not Congress’ taxing authority.

Kind of hard for DOJ to argue it’s a tax, when its boss, the Chief Executive made a statement that it was not.

Wethal on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

One way or another, the mandate will end up before the Supreme Court.

And then a Wise Latina and a Frumpy Harvard Military-supporter-but-not-really will take it and use it as red meat in front of 2 conservative males.

upinak on October 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Have faith in the wisdom of the good Justice Kennedy. I think he knows where the Commerce Clause ends and tyranny begins.

JohnGalt23 on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson

Appointed by Ronnie Reagan. In other words, an “Activist Judge”.

Del Dolemonte on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

The state attorneys general who filed this suit obviously are hoping that even if the Court finds the mandate okay on Commerce Clause grounds, the Printz case and the Tenth Amendment will ride to the rescue and give them a reason to find it unconstitutional anyway.

I don’t see how anyone could seriously argue that the commerce clause allows this. A simple reading in context shows that the commerce clause was intended to cover disputes between states, not federal mandates to individuals.

Vashta.Nerada on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

On the “tax or not a tax” there is video of Obama saying that it “not going to be a tax”.

S/b found and exposed.

Schadenfreude on October 14, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Why do we have these racist judges?

Oil Can on October 14, 2010 at 5:17 PM

I like the Alice in Wonderland reference. Does it imply a Mad Hatter, or maybe a Red Queen

BKeyser on October 14, 2010 at 5:17 PM

Does anyone remember the supposed reason for ObamaCare? Was it to reduce the cost of health care or was it to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

We had to pass it to find out what’s in it.

Good Lt on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

Blake on October 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

+1

RachDubya on October 14, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Get this on fast tract to SCOTUS

Wade on October 14, 2010 at 5:21 PM

And then a Wise Latina and a Frumpy Harvard Military-supporter-but-not-really will take it and use it as red meat in front of 2 conservative males.

upinak on October 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Would the Latina and the Harvard lady use red meat?

hawksruleva on October 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Does anyone remember the supposed reason for ObamaCare? Was it to reduce the cost of health care or was it to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

Like Obama himself, it was for whatever you wanted it to be for.

hawksruleva on October 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Does anyone remember the supposed reason for ObamaCare? Was it to reduce the cost of health care or was it to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

It is working well, my insurance only increased 28.5% this coming year.

Wade on October 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Have faith in the wisdom of the good Justice Kennedy. I think he knows where the Commerce Clause ends and tyranny begins.

JohnGalt23 on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

He’s more consistently conservative than a lot of people give him credit for, but he was notably on the wrong side in Kelo.

Good Solid B-Plus on October 14, 2010 at 5:24 PM

RachDubya on October 14, 2010 at 5:19 PM

You remember that thread. LOL

Blake on October 14, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Dateline Pensacola, baby!

tree hugging sister on October 14, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Have faith in the wisdom of the good Justice Kennedy. I think he knows where the Commerce Clause ends and tyranny begins.

JohnGalt23 on October 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

You show WAY to much faith in Kennedy.

Would the Latina and the Harvard lady use red meat?

hawksruleva on October 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Fine… Tofurkey!

upinak on October 14, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Count on it!

CWforFreedom on October 14, 2010 at 5:28 PM

It is working well, my insurance only increased 28.5% this coming year.

Wade on October 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Mine only went up 12%. The Obama force must be strong here.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Like Obama himself, it was for whatever you wanted it to be for.

hawksruleva on October 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Yep. I was just wondering how one could justify using the commerce clause when the stated objective was to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Vinson ruled that it’s a penalty, not a tax, and must be defended under the Commerce Clause and not Congress’ taxing authority.

WHAMMO!!! This should slay Obamacare, with Obama’s own forked tongue!!!

capejasmine on October 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Mine only went up 12%. The Obama force must be strong here.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Who do you know?

Wade on October 14, 2010 at 5:32 PM

Coming soon. Congress mandates people buy one armed mannequins. One armed mannequins are a direct effect on commerce, and cannot be left to starve the economy because no one is buying them.

Curiously though, several investors in one armed mannequins have been linked back to members of congress.

Internal investigation finds no wrong doing.

44Magnum on October 14, 2010 at 5:34 PM

Does anyone remember the supposed reason for ObamaCare? Was it to reduce the cost of health care or was it to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

It was supposed to get Democrats re-elected (by giving “free” health care to their base: welfare moochers, illegal aliens, etc.)

It is working well, my insurance only increased 28.5% this coming year.

Wade on October 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Mine went up more than that. Hey, somebody has to pay for all those newly “free” mammograms, colonoscopies, and coverage for 26-year old “kids” — and guess what? The insurance companies decided that somebody was going to be the premium-paying insureds.

Who could have seen that coming??? Weren’t all those new “free” services and coverages supposed to just fall down from the sky? Isn’t that how it works in the land of skittles, unicorns, and community-organizing morons who can’t get hired for a real job?

AZCoyote on October 14, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Kennedy is too dependent on foreign law as justification for his rulings. He also claims a consensus where none exists.

Blake on October 14, 2010 at 5:38 PM

They also argued it’s up to an individual taxpayer — not the states — to challenge the section requiring health insurance when it takes effect in 2015.

Obama vs the little people…

What’s wrong champ? Can’t pick on someone your own size?

Scrappy on October 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM

This cartoon says it all: You Can Keep Your Doctor!

slickwillie2001 on October 14, 2010 at 5:47 PM

C’mon, crr6. Where’s your insightful legal analysis now, hmmm?

LOL

Grace_is_sufficient on October 14, 2010 at 5:47 PM

My 2011 health insurance epremiums will be 24.5% higher than 2010′s–and my company is not-so-subtly pushing ppl to choose the “high deductible” (plan $5000 before it kicks in) *now*, intimating that it will soon be the only choice anyway…

Hieronymus on October 14, 2010 at 5:49 PM

It’s all about the way they “reframe” it. Tax, penalty, whatever. Hocus pocus.

John the Libertarian on October 14, 2010 at 6:23 PM

This cartoon says it all: You Can Keep Your Doctor!

slickwillie2001 on October 14, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Funny site! Thanks.

John the Libertarian on October 14, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Challenge to ObamaCare mandate can proceed to trial

This was just a ruling on a motion to dismiss, so the judge didn’t say the case can proceed to trial. It could still get thrown out on a motion for summary judgment. A better headline would be “Judge refused to dismiss challenge to health care reform” or something like that.

One way or another, the mandate will end up before the Supreme Court.

Eh, probably. But I don’t think that’s a sure thing. You’ll need a circuit court panel to get a majority striking down the mandate, survive en back challenge, creating a split for SCOTUS to review.

Yes, in theory, they’re supposed to follow whatever the factual findings are at the district court level, etc, but in practice of course they’ll deal with this as a matter of first impression.

Right, plus there aren’t many (if any) factual issues in dispute here. It’s almost exclusively a legal question, so I don’t see why the lower court judgments would have much of an effect on things.

No big deal really, then, about today’s ruling.

Not a big deal at all. Especially because at this level, the judge didn’t even address the government’s strongest arguments (involving the ICC and the Necessary and Proper clause) on the merits.

What’s the deal with all this buzz about Printz though? I don’t see how it’s remotely applicable. The commandeering line of cases are based on the idea that Congress can act on individuals, but not states. Obviously, the individual mandate acts on individuals. And if they’re referring to the funding provisions they’re going to have a hard time as well. Under the Dole test Congress can condition funds as long as (among other things) the financial pressure is not so coercive as to turn from pressure into compulsion. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. The dollar figures just aren’t high enough.

crr6 on October 14, 2010 at 6:29 PM

crr6 on October 14, 2010 at 6:29 PM

This is what seems to be a common theme among the left. You guys get so buried in the law you never stop to think if your silly plans work.

No one’s who’s not already insured is going buy insurance when it’s 10k to 15k a year and the penalty is 10-20% of that. It’s nonsensical.

Chuck Schick on October 14, 2010 at 6:36 PM

Boss said our Company premiums were going up 40% and switched to The Principle and 1 month later they announce they are layin off 1500 and going out of HC business so its back to United Healthcare the one that was higher than the one we switched from BCBS!

Now boss is thinkin of makin us all pay 50% of our coverage costs.

Got to keep my ins. NOPE!
Cut costs of my Ins. NOPE!

Demrats LIE, they all LIE, they all are Socialists and must be removed, every single last one of em GONE!

dhunter on October 14, 2010 at 7:01 PM

dhunter on October 14, 2010 at 7:01 PM

But hey, you’re going to give illegals health care. Isn’t that more important?

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 7:03 PM

The most interesting thing about his decision to me is that the judge was willing to hold the Congress Critters to their stated word on Legislative intent, as opposed to the position that DOJ is arguing currently, ie it is really a tax, because that is the stronger argument. Even though they would have said anything to get it passed (i.e. lied through their teeth), they said what was politically viable at the time and now may lose on that point. Sweet justice.

txmomof6 on October 14, 2010 at 7:42 PM

Oh, and think the judge accidentally let his political biases show here, because it just isn’t in line with existing law:

“Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an “Alice-in-Wonderland” tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check,” he wrote.

It doesn’t matter what reasons Congress comes up with for passing the legislation, as long as it’s still valid under the Constitution. There’s all kinds of case law saying Congress can pass legislation for pretextual reasons. E.g. if Congress passed a law regulating the interstate sale of shoes (obviously authorized under the ICC) and said it was passing it pursuant to the enforcement clause of the 14th amendment, that wouldn’t make the law unconstitutional.

crr6 on October 14, 2010 at 7:43 PM

crr6 on October 14, 2010 at 7:43 PM

Crr6 and Democrats in favor of disingenuousness, film at 11.

txmomof6 on October 14, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Does anyone remember the supposed reason for ObamaCare? Was it to reduce the cost of health care or was it to give people health insurance.

darwin on October 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

Both. It will only accomplish the latter, and by doing exactly what the ‘free market’ is currently doing. Including the fig leaf of ‘not enough money’ when the elite (politicians) are walking away with 6-figure salaries.

Dark-Star on October 15, 2010 at 12:25 AM

Vinson ruled that it’s a penalty, not a tax, and must be defended under the Commerce Clause and not Congress’ taxing authority.

That bodes well for the case, since the power to tax is a lot broader than the power to assess penalties.

Even the Mighty Commerce Clause is weaker than the power to tax.

There Goes The Neighborhood on October 15, 2010 at 1:21 AM

That bodes well for the case, since the power to tax is a lot broader than the power to assess penalties.

Even the Mighty Commerce Clause is weaker than the power to tax.

There Goes The Neighborhood on October 15, 2010 at 1:21 AM

No, the strongest arguments for the mandate have always involved the Commerce clause and the Necessary and Proper clause.

crr6 on October 15, 2010 at 1:27 AM

Obama Facebook Status on ObamaCare (parody)

Mervis Winter on October 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM