The entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was ruled to be unconstitutional by Senior Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Florida on January 31, 2011. I read the entire 78-page ruling and found it very interesting. Even though I had a difficult time with the "legalese," I appreciated the common sense approach of the ruling. I encourage everyone to read the judgment in its entirety because his ruling is a good way to learn about how our Founders put binders on the federal government by the way they wrote the Constitution.
Judge Vinson's ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional stands until it is overturned by a higher court even though two other courts have ruled the Act as being constitutional. The December 13, 2010, ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Virginia court invalidated the central component of the health care law - the requirement that people buy health insurance. The decision of both courts hinged on whether or not the individual mandate was constitutional.
Judge Hudson wrote in his 42-page opinion that the individual mandate "exceeds the boundaries of congressional power" and that it would "invite unbridled federal police powers."
Judge Vinson was very blunt in his ruling that the government cannot force anyone to buy health insurance. He reasoned that if the government can force people to buy health insurance, it can also force Americans to decide "whether and when (or not) to buy a house, a car, a television, a dinner or even a morning cup of coffee." Vinson said that, in his opinion, the Constitution did not allow that type of unbridled power to the federal government.
The legal battle over the constitutionality of ObamaCare will probably go to the United States Supreme Court, and the battle lines are already being drawn. Seventy-four Democratic senators sent a letter to Justice Clarence Thomas calling for him to sit out deliberations on ObamaCare because his wife founded a conservative group that opposes the health care law. Senator Orrin Hatch suggested that Justice Elena Kagan sit out the deliberations due to the fact that she was a member of President Obama's administration previous to becoming a justice.
The plaintiffs requested injunctive relief to stop the Obama Administration from implementing the Act. Judge Vinson wrote, "Injunctive relief is an `extraordinary' … and `drastic' remedy…. It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for there is a long-standing presumption that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction."
I think that Judge Vinson gave the Obama Administration more credit than they deserve because members of the administration indicated that they will move forward with ObamaCare with the belief that the Supreme Court will overturn Judge Vinson's ruling. Attorney generals in several of the states involved in the case have indicated that their states will not implement any regulations of ObamaCare until the Vinson verdict has been overturned. The Virginia attorney general has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to move the case forward on its docket. There is also the little problem of the administration being found in contempt for reissuing a drilling moratorium that a U.S. district judge found overly broad in the Deepwater Horizon case. Last week the judge ruled that the Interior Department 's reissuing of a drilling moratorium followed by a de facto moratorium via an overly restrictive permitting process constituted contempt. For the Obama Administration to be found in contempt for moving forward with ObamaCare after Judge Vinson's declaratory judgment, one or more of the states will have to go back to the judge with evidence.
The fight over ObamaCare is still taking place in Congress. It started in Congress, and it will continue in Congress. Soon after the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010, President Barack Obama signed it into law. The House passed the bill by a vote of 219 to 212 (a difference of 7 votes) with all the Republicans and 34 Democrats voting against the bill. On January 19, 2011, the House voted to repeal ObamaCare by a vote of 245 to 189 (a margin of 56 votes) along party lines. The House repeal of ObamaCare was not merely symbolic but very substantive. Any legislation that repeals a law of more than 2000 pages that is the President's signature initiative is nothing short of a great accomplishment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed that he would never let the bill to repeal ObamaCare come to the floor of the Senate, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell forced a vote on the bill on February 2, 2011. The McConnell Amendment failed to pass on a vote of 51-47, but it put all Democratic senators on record for opposing the repeal.
Senator Jim DeMint was the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, and all Republican senators cosponsored it. Senator DeMint made the following statement after the disappointing vote: "Today's vote reveals the senators who refuse to listen to the American people, and I believe those who continue to block repeal will find themselves repealed at the ballot box. ObamaCare is a partisan power grab that cannot stand because it will irreparably harm our economy and the health of our citizens. The American people have loudly rejected this takeover and courts have invalidated the law as unconstitutional. Republicans will continue to fight until ObamaCare is fully repealed so we can enact commonsense reforms to make health care more affordable and accessible for every American."
The battle will continue as the Republicans in the House of Representatives have declared that they plan to vote soon on defunding ObamaCare. This could stop the implementation of the Act, but Obama has promised to veto it if the Senate passed the bill.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will need to be found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and/or entirely repealed in order for us to move forward with the process that ObamaCare claimed to be. No one seems to really know what is contained in the more than 2000 pages of the Act because new information continues to come out. A friend recently sent me the following message: "Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That's $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It's in the health care bill. Just thought you should know."
He followed with this message: "The tax … affects a few very wealthy folks. From Snopes: "We can understand how this misconception got started. The law itself is couched in highly technical language that only a qualified tax expert can fully grasp. (This provision begins on page 33 of the reconciliation bill that was passed and signed into law.) And it does say the tax falls on "net gain… attributable to the disposition of property."
I don't have any idea what selling my house has to do with health care, but I think the whole plan was to force Americans to redistribute wealth. Most people are aware that there are areas of our health care system that need to be changed, but most Americans believe that ObamaCare is not the way to do it.
Judge Vinson concluded his ruling with these words: "The existing problems in our national health care system are recognized by everyone in this case. There is widespread sentiment for positive improvements that will reduce costs, improve the quality of care, and expand availability in a way that the nation can afford. This is obviously a very difficult task. Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution. Again, this case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation. It is about the Constitutional role of the federal government.
"For the reasons stated, I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate….
"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void…."