Appeals court rules Obamacare mandate unconstitutional [The Arena]

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A divided U.S. appeals court in Atlanta ruled today that a key provision of last year's federal health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with a group of 26 states that challenged the law.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in the case of Florida v. HHS, has ruled that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. The 304 page ruling is yet another major blow against President Obama’s master plan to federalize the nation’s health-care industry.

The decision directly conflicts with a ruling issued in June by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that upheld the law.  It is now highly likely that these conflicting opinions will eventually be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In today’s ruling, a 2-1 majority of the court stated:

“The individual mandate exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional. This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives. We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers. ‘Uniqueness’ is not a constitutional principle in any antecedent Supreme Court decision.”

On December 13 of last year, Virginia federal district Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled the individual mandate is not merely unconstitutional but is also dangerous because it “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”  And last January 30, Florida federal district Judge C. Roger Vinson added to that rejection, ruling the mandate didn’t pass muster, wasn’t severable from the rest of Obamacare and that therefore the entire law is unconstitutional and “must be declared void.”

The geniuses who drafted the Obamacare law (“First we’ll pass it; then we’ll find out what’s in it”) evidently overlooked the standard severability language inserted into federal statutes; language that guarantees if one provision is found to be unconstitutional, the remaining provisions will still be enforceable.  Because the Obamacare law lacks a severability clause, overturning any of the law’s provisions means necessarily an overturning of the entire law, according to Judge Visnon.

In his opinion, Judge Vinson wrote:  “Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company (essentially for life) just for being alive and residing in the United States.  If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a transaction … it is not hyperbolic to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted.”

In today’s ruling, however—and contrary to Judge Vinson’s lower court ruling—the appellate court held that the absence of a severability clause should not be fatal to the entire Obamacare statute.  The court ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional, but left the door open for enforcement of other provisions of the law.

 

Learn more:  Get your own copy of the court’s ruling (304 Pp., .pdf)

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Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).

 

About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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