Monday, January 31, 2011

Health Care Reform Unconstitutional? Wait and See

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Gibson noted earlier today that federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has more analysis of the decision here:


Roger Vinson, the second Republican judge to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, has, as expected, ruled against it. More surprising is that he's decided that the presence of the mandate means the rest of the law must be overturned, too, which is an extremely radical step. The full ruling has a very Bush v. Gore feeling, as Vinson concedes that his position is activist in the extreme and a break from the court's usual preference for limited rulings, but says, in effect, that he's going to do it just this once. "This conclusion is reached with full appreciation for the 'normal rule' that reviewing courts should ordinarily refrain from invalidating more than the unconstitutional part of a statute," Vinson writes, "but non-severability is required based on the unique facts of this case and the particular aspects of the Act. This is not a situation that is likely to be repeated." Italics mine.

That puts Vinson on the far right of this debate: Previously, Henry Hudson had ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional but the rest of the law constitutional, and Norman Moon and George Steeh had ruled both the mandate and the rest of the legislation constitutional. So there's currently a 2-2 split: The judges appointed by Democrats think the law constitutional, and the judges appointed by Republicans think the law varying degrees of unconstitutional. Whatever happens to the legislation at the end of the day, the clear level of politicization in the judiciary is getting its day in the sun. Vinison even shouts out to the Boston Tea Party in his decision.

Klein explains why the GOP might come to regret opposing the individual mandate here.

TNR's Jonathan Cohn pokes holes in Vinson's ruling here.

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