Breaking: Federal judge rules ObamaCare mandate unconstitutional; Update: Bill argues Congressional power without “logical limitation”

posted at 12:16 pm on December 13, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

CNN has a breaking alert on a ruling by a federal judge in Virginia that rejects ObamaCare as unconstitutional:

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled parts of the sweeping health care reform effort led by President Obama to be unconstitutional. This is the first federal court to strike down the law, contradicting other recent rulings the law was permissible. The key issue of contention was the “individual mandate” requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance by 2014.

This case (Virginia v Sebelius) was the lawsuit brought by the states against ObamaCare.  This is the test case that had the best chance of overturning the law, and the states have apparently won an important finding in the district court.

According to Dan Foster at NRO, the judge ruled that Congress “exceeded its authority” by imposing an individual mandate to purchase insurance.

Update: Actually, this suit was brought by Virginia alone.  The other case brought by 20 other states in one suit is still pending.

Update II: Still waiting for more data from the opinion, but several commenters have mentioned the lack of a severability clause in ObamaCare to argue that this decision would invalidate the entire bill.  Not so fast, wrote David Catron at American Spectator last week:

This is probably why the White House has made so much of recent rulings by U.S. District Judges George Steeh and Norman Moon, Clinton appointees who dismissed relatively inconsequential anti-PPACA lawsuits. The administration knows, of course, that the Virginia case presents a far more serious threat than either of these cases. It has already survived a motion to dismiss and it was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the famous “rocket docket” from which important cases are expeditiously launched to the U.S. Court of Appeals and beyond. As Judge Hudson put it during the October hearing, “[T]his is only one brief stop on the way to the United States Supreme Court.” Nonetheless, if he rules in favor of Virginia, the administration will no doubt claim it is ahead two-to-one.

The jumpiness of the White House notwithstanding, it is not a given that Judge Hudson will strike down the entire law. He has shown skepticism about the mandate, but that issue is relatively straightforward compared to the severability question. On the mandate, he can follow the example of Judges Steeh and Moon, who held that the decision notto engage in economic activity somehow constitutes “commerce” as the word is used in the Constitution, or he can rule that such reasoning does too much violence to the intent of the founders. On severability, Hudson’s choices are more numerous and the legal precedents are less auspicious. In fact, the Supreme Court recently invalidated an important part of the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting law, which contains no severability clause, while leaving the rest of its provisions in place.

It’s also a given that the Supreme Court will wind up deciding this, so any talk of severability at this point is academic.

Update III: Fox News is now reporting that Judge Hudson won’t issue an injunction against the entire ObamaCare law, which means that he’s seeing a de facto severability in it.  Without the mandate, though, the system won’t work at all, which gives Congress a big opening to dismantle the rest.

Update IV: Gabe Malor has begun perusing the opinion and finds the heart of Hudson’s decision on page 24:

Judge Hudson (pg 24): mandate “exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I”

Hudson also rejected the administration’s argument that this was permissible under taxation authority by noting that the administration had publicly disputed that it was a tax, and Congress had rejected that argument as well when passing the bill (pages 33-36).   Instead, Hudson found it to be a “penalty,” and unconnected to any enumerated power (page 36).

Update V: Hudson hits the nail on the head with this:

Hudson rejected the government’s argument that it has the power under the Constitution to require individuals to buy health insurance, a provision that was set to take effect in 2014.

“Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing or nutritional decisions,” Hudson wrote. “This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation” and is unsupported by previous legal cases around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Hudson — perhaps not inadvertently — just described the progressive agenda in a single sentence, and why the Constitution forbids it.

Stand by — more to come….


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Comment pages: 1 5 6 7

Apparently you need lawyers to really twist the meaning 180 degrees…

“For the power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen,) which remain exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes.” — Thomas Jefferson

…from the clear meaning of the Commerce Clause.

dominigan on December 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Thankfully this will be overturned on appeal and the mandate will stand, as it should.

Grow Fins on December 14, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Why do you want the government to run the US health care system?

darwin on December 14, 2010 at 2:36 PM

“For the power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen,) which remain exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes.” — Thomas Jefferson
…from the clear meaning of the Commerce Clause.

dominigan on December 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM

This is worth repeating.
But then WTH did Jefferson know, anyway?

Badger40 on December 14, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Because you’re going to need it at some point in your life, and if you don’t purchase insurance you’re going to externalize the costs of your care to the rest of society.

crr6 on December 13, 2010 at 8:42 PM

There it is.
The crux of what you believe in all of this.
You worry that my decision will be of a cost to society.
I have news for you.
There are costs to society in EVERYTHING we do.
If I treat a kid like crap in my classroom, there could be a cost to society in that he turns out to be a criminal bcs of my mistreatment of said kid.
How do you know we will ALL require health care?
I have family that NEVER needed health care. They even had their babies at home with midwives.
And health care would be within the reach of many people in this country if it weren’t for programs like Medicare running up the tab for the rest of us who are paying our own way.
The federal govt does not posess the enumerated power, per the Const, to do any of this Obamacare stuff.
You can cite every court case in the land for OBamacare, but the simple matter is, this statement is very simple to understand:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

INTRA-state commerce is for the STATES, not the feds.
It’s real simple.
INTER-state commerce is to be levelled fair across the board btw the states & that is all.
Lawyers & judges muddle this simplicity.
It is how they make a living.

Badger40 on December 14, 2010 at 3:22 PM

Grow Fins on December 14, 2010 at 11:18 AM

The thing you and crr6, in all her “intellectual lawschool wisdom”, seem to forget, which Judge Hudson understands, is that the Commerce clause is used to regulate commerce activies that individuals choose of their own free will to engage in. It has never been used to force individuals to participate in commerce.

There is a distinct difference.

ladyingray on December 14, 2010 at 3:22 PM

I’m still trying to understand the whole argument. Let me see if I’ve got it now…

It’s possible to purchase things like baby food, baby clothes, etc. Therefore, having a baby can be regulated under the Commerce Clause.

Subsequently, abortion can be restricted to cases of medical necessity under the “Necessary and Proper” Clause, especially since the government will need as many people as possible in the future to tax.

The “right to privacy” claim does not stand up against the State’s interests, so Roe v. Wade is out.

Am I understanding the pro-Obamacare argument now?

malclave on December 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM

The “right to privacy” claim does not stand up against the State’s interests, so Roe v. Wade is out.

Am I understanding the pro-Obamacare argument now?

malclave on December 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM

I wrote about this yesterday. All one needs to do is challenge Roe v. Wade on the basis of Commerce Clause precedent, and whammo….abortion or the commerce clause goes away. You can’t argue both at the same time.

BobMbx on December 14, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Badger40 on December 14, 2010 at 3:22 PM

+1.

There was a case, I forget the nomenclature, maybe in the 40′s? but the SCOTUS ruled that a farmer couldn’t grow wheat (or corn or whatever) for feed because he was thereby adversely affecting interstate commerce by not participating in it to that degree. ISYN.

And it’s been pretty much a rocky road thence.

Akzed on December 14, 2010 at 4:24 PM

AIDS adversely affects interstate commerce.

Stow yer mudsharks ya scurvy buggers, harr come ye commerce clause a starb’rd!

Akzed on December 14, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Akzed on December 14, 2010 at 4:24 PM

I remember it.
That is why this legal precedent bull$hit has never impressed me.
If a ruling is UnConst in the 1st place, it doesn’t make it any more legitimate if you continue to cite its precedence.

Badger40 on December 14, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Well. The Constitution is under attack. So why is this a surprise to anyone?

johnnyU on December 15, 2010 at 12:52 AM

Comment pages: 1 5 6 7