Obamateurism of the Day
posted at 8:05 am on February 2, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
No doubt the ruling by Judge Roger Vinson eviscerating ObamaCare has the White House discouraged, but Barack Obama’s response to it was hardly presidential. Instead of expressing confidence that an appellate court would see the wisdom of ObamaCare, the White House went into attack mode on Vinson personally by accusing him of “overreaching” and “activism”:
Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching. The judge’s decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent that support the considered judgment of the democratically elected branches of government that the Act’s “individual responsibility” provision is necessary to prevent billions of dollars of cost-shifting every year by individuals without insurance who cannot pay for the health care they obtain. And the judge declared that the entire law is null and void even though the only provision he found unconstitutional was the “individual responsibility” provision. This decision is at odds with decades of established Supreme Court law, which has consistently found that courts have a constitutional obligation to preserve as a much of a statute as can be preserved. As a result, the judge’s decision puts all of the new benefits, cost savings and patient protections that were included in the law at risk.
Under today’s view of the law, seniors will pay higher prices for their prescription drugs and small businesses will pay higher taxes because small business tax credits would be eliminated. And the new provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying, capping or limiting your care would be wiped away.
We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts.
First, the higher prices and taxes aren’t Vinson’s problem if the bill itself violates the Constitution. Judges are supposed to rule on the facts and the law, not on the policy choices they like best. The prices and taxes are Congress’ issue to solve, within the limits of their authority under the Constitution. Prices might drop and taxes might go down if Congress nationalized all means of production, too, but that doesn’t make it legal or morally right.
Second, the role of the judiciary is to check the power of Congress and the executive. That’s why actual Constitutional scholars refer to the “checks and balances” of the three-branch federal system. Maybe Obama learned his Constitutional law at the same place Chuck Schumer learned civics, but applying a check to Congressional overreach isn’t “judicial activism,” it’s one of the main purposes of the federal courts. “Judicial activism” occurs when judges create laws from the bench in the absence of legislative action.
Next, read this defense of their position:
History and the facts are on our side. Similar legal challenges to major new laws — including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — were all filed and all failed. And contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.
Quick: name the private-sector goods and services that the federal government requires in the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, or even the Social Security Act. Answer? None. Social Security is a tax system with defined benefits payouts from the government, and no one doubts that the federal government has the power to tax. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act require the federal government to enforce the Constitution, not citizens to buy sample ballots or shop at certain stores. The entire response is a big non-sequitur — and if this is how they defended ObamaCare in Vinson’s court, small wonder they lost, and lost big.
Finally, calling Vinson names while Obama challenged Hillary Clinton’s mandate proposal on almost identical grounds is not just hypocritical, it’s downright silly:
Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate. I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.
That’s exactly what Vinson says — and then explains that if Congress has the power to order such a thing, then they have no limitations on power at all:
The problem with this legal rationale, however, is it would essentially have unlimited application. There is quite literally no decision that, in the natural course of events, does not have an economic impact of some sort. The decisions of whether and when (or not) to buy a house, a car, a television, a dinner, or even a morning cup of coffee also have a financial impact that — when aggregated with similar economic decisions — affect the price of that particular product or service and have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. To be sure, it is not difficult to identify an economic decision that has a cumulatively substantial effect on interstate commerce; rather, the difficult task is to find a decision that does not.
Instead of insulting Vinson, maybe they should read what he had to say, including his quote of a candidate named Barack Obama.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!