Last month, a federal judge in Florida struck down ObamaCare in its entirety due to the unconstitutional nature of its individual mandate and lack of severability. The ruling technically freed 26 states from compliance on ObamaCare, at least until an appeal is heard at either the 11th Circuit or Supreme Court. Last night, however, the Obama administration asked Judge Roger Vinson to please tell all of the states to comply with the law he just threw out:
The Obama administration, in a Thursday evening filing in a Northern Florida federal court, is asking the court to clarify that the 26 states who successfully challenged the law are still required to comply with it.
U.S. District Judge Henry [sic] Vinson ruled that the law’s requirement for individuals to purchase insurance is unconstitutional, and therefore, the rest of the law is unconstitutional because the provision is too central to making the law function. The administration points out that the so-called individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014, while other parts of the law have already gone into effect.
“[A] contrary understanding would threaten serious harm to many Americans currently benefiting from provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are already in effect and would significantly interfere with defendants’ statutory duty to implement the Act as Congress directed,” the Justice Department wrote in its court filing.
Vinson made himself perfectly clear last month. He struck down the entire law, which means none of it goes into effect, not unless he’s overruled on appeal. That applies to any provisions that have already come into force, as well as those not yet triggered. In fact, Vinson declined to issue an injunction against enforcement of the law by saying that overturning it was sufficient to the task.
Essentially, the Obama administration wants Vinson to tell the states to obey an unconstitutional law. This isn’t a necessary step for an appeal, although it might or might not be a prerequisite to an application for a stay at the 11th Circuit. Either way, it’s a fool’s errand. If a judge declares an entire law void on the basis of constitutionality, he is hardly likely to issue an order telling states to obey it anyway.
Assuming this isn’t fulfilling some arcane check box on an appeal, what’s the point of asking Vinson to do this? Either Obama’s team doesn’t understand how to read a legal brief — an amusing prospect, but utterly untrue — or they’re trying to delay the appeal a little longer. Perhaps they’re hoping for a few more decisions to go their way in circuit courts before Vinson’s ruling gets reviewed at the next level. Frankly, though, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, either. Except as a political pose, this seems completely futile and meaningless.