FL judge, Health Care Bill Unconstitutional, Judge Roger Vinson, Requires Americans to obtain commercial insurance
From the New York Times January 31, 2011.
“Like a Virginia judge in December, Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., said he would allow the law to remain in effect while the Obama administration appeals his ruling, a process that could take two years. But unlike his Virginia counterpart, Judge Vinson ruled that the entire health care act should fall if the appellate courts join him in invalidating the insurance requirement.
“The Act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Judge Vinson wrote.
In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the insurance requirement exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Vinson wrote that the provision could not be rescued by an associated clause in Article I that gives Congress broad authority to make laws “necessary and proper” to carrying out its designated responsibilities.
“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,” Judge Vinson wrote.
In a silver lining for the Obama administration, the judge rejected a second claim that the new law violates state sovereignty by requiring states to pay for a fractional share of a Medicaid expansion that is scheduled for 2014.
Judge Vinson, the first judge to address that question, dismissed the contention that states were being illegally commandeered by the federal government. He said they always have the option, however impractical, to withdraw from Medicaid, a joint state and federal insurance program for those with low-incomes.
The judge’s ruling came in the most prominent of more than 20 legal challenges to some aspect of the sweeping health law, which was enacted last year by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Obama in March.
The plaintiffs include governors and attorneys general from 26 states, all but one Republican, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small companies. Officials from six states joined the lawsuit this month after shifts in party control brought by last November’s elections.
The ruling by Judge Vinson, a senior judge who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, solidified the divide in the health litigation among judges named by Republicans and those named by Democrats.
Last month, Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., who was appointed by President George W. Bush, became the first to invalidate the insurance mandate. Two other federal judges named by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, have upheld the law.”