Conservative Political Commentary

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Constitution Wins in Judge Vinson’s Decision

President Barack Obama's signature on the heal...Image via Wikipedia
President's signature on Health Care bill
The Obama Administration has introduced numerous measures which are unconstitutional or constitutionally questionable: Cap and Trade, restrictive regulations, shutting down offshore oil drilling, etc., but none more blatantly outside constitutional limits than Obamacare. The majority of states have legal action against this law currently going on in Federal courts.

The most damaging decision to the socialized medicine law is a decision by a federal judge in Florida. This story is fairly familiar by now, but as it fades from the news cycle, it needs to be pointed out that this ongoing legal battle very well could (and should) result in the end of Obamacare.

The decision should remind the elites in charge in Washington that we still have a constitution, and that they are obligated to follow it.

In Pensacola, Florida, on Monday, January 31, 2011, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled the Obama health care reform law unconstitutional. According to his ruling, the mandate to purchase insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional, and is not severable from the rest of the law. Therefore, the entire law is invalid. In his ruling, the judge sided with 26 states, which, along with the National Federation of Independent Business, brought the lawsuit. [1]

This ruling (found here) is a serious blow to the health care law, and apparently ends it, unless the decision is overturned by a higher court. The judge rejected the administration’s argument that the case should be dismissed because the states did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.


One refreshing thing about the decision is that it shows respect for what the Constitution actually says, and is not simply an act of bench legislation. If the individual mandate is allowed to stand, what can’t the government require? But our Constitution establishes a federal system and a central government with limited and enumerated powers.

Meanwhile, in Congress, following the House’s vote to repeal the act, the Senate voted on February 2, by a 51-47 majority, on a strict party line vote, against repeal. The Democrats are determined to protect the law, regardless of the facts that (a) the majority of the states are suing to have it overturned, (b) the majority of American voters disapprove of the law, and (c) a federal judge has ruled it unconstitutional.

According to the ruling (Page 42 of 78)

It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. 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 for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power”[Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only.

From Page 75 of 78 of the ruling:
(5) Injunction
The last issue to be resolved is the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief enjoining implementation of the Act, which can be disposed of very quickly. Injunctive relief is an “extraordinary” [citations]. 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.” …..Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary.
[Emphasis added]

It might seem that the Administration would give this decision its due, but the Administration has chosen to ignore it as far as implementation is concerned, even for the 26 states involved in the lawsuit.

According to Heritage legal expert Robert Alt, Judge Vinson’s declaratory judgment binds the parties to the suit, which includes 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and the federal government. This means that, absent a court-issued stay, Obamacare cannot be further implemented as it pertains to these 26 states. So the White House now faces a simple choice: Will President Obama abide by a valid decision by a federal district court, or will he unilaterally ignore the rule of law? If the past is any indicator, the rule of law is in for a continued beating. [2]

According to Bill Wilson at IBD Editorials,

[Wisconsin Attorney General J.B.] Van Hollen has taken the proper step of following the law, which now says that ObamaCare is unconstitutional in its entirety, relieving Wisconsin of any obligation to follow it.

It is the responsibility of every state attorney general in the nation to follow Van Hollen's lead, and halt any actions to implement this unconstitutional law. To do otherwise will open states up to legal liability. [3]

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that the Obama Administration should enforce the law regardless of the court’s decision:

Given the judge’s ruling, CNSNews.com asked Durbin on Wednesday whether he thinks the Obama administration should stop implementing the health care law.

Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “Personally, I don’t, because the judge was asked for an injunction, and he didn’t rule that there would be one. So he hasn’t enjoined any conduct or activity. At this point, we have 16 courts that have considered this case. [4]

As mentioned in the judge’s ruling, an injunction was considered unnecessary because of the presumption that the government would honor the ruling.

Obama apparently will continue to ignore this until the Supreme Court rules on it. Then what? The Administration has already been held in contempt of court by another federal judge.

As reported by Joe Newby of The Examiner, the Obama is ignoring another court order. The Administration has been found to be in contempt of court for defying an order to end the deepwater drilling moratorium. [5]

Newby quotes from Bloomberg’s article on the decision:

Interior Department regulators acted with “determined disregard” by lifting and reinstituting a series of policy changes that restricted offshore drilling, following the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman of New Orleans ruled yesterday.

“Each step the government took following the court’s imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance,” Feldman said in the ruling. [6]

So, does anyone notice a pattern developing? Apparently, the Administration is all for the rule of law when it suits their purposes. Otherwise, not so much.

[1] Melissa Nelson, Associated Press, “Florida Judge Strikes Down Obamacare, Says Individual Mandate Is Unconstitutional,” 01/31/2011, via CNS News.


[2] Conn Carroll, “Morning Bell: The Obamacare Assault on the Rule of Law,” 02/03/2011, The Foundry, The Heritage Foundation.


[3] Bill Wilson, “Obama Invites Crisis If He Ignores Ruling,” 02/02/2011, IBD Editorials.


[4] Nicholas Ballasy, “Durbin: Obama Administration Should Enforce Obamacare Even Though Judge Ruled It Unconstitutional,” 02/03/2011, CNS News.com.


[5] Joe Newby, “Obama Administration found in contempt of court over drilling moratotium,” The Examiner (Spokane), 02/04/2011.


[6] Ibid.

Photo: President's signature on health care bill. Public domain.


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2 comments:

The Conservative Leftist said...

Two courts have ruled it constitutional, two have ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. So this has nothing to do with Obama refusing to follow the rule of law. Just as Obama didn't refuse to enforce Don't Ask Don't Tell after lower federal courts ruled that unconstitutional.

Clearly state governments are able to pass individual mandates, the question is only whether that ability extends to the federal government as well. I think it should. Also it should be noted that George W. Bush signed legislation making it illegal for hospitals to turn away people who couldn't pay for needed emergency care. This is effectively socialized medicine

Obamacare is essentially a Republican plan, and the goal of the GOP right now is to repeal the law so that the next time Democrats try to pass health care reform the parameters of the politically possible are moved even more sharply to the right.

Eddie said...

A state mandate, while possibly undesirable, has some constitutional support under the Tenth Amendment. The individual mandate in Obamacare has no such support.

Hopefully, Judge Vinson's ruling will prevail with the Supreme Court. If not, the next step may be for states to pass nullification laws against Obamacare, which they have the right to do.

In the meantime, the 26 states involved would be well advised to do nothing toward implementing this unconstitutional law.

Thanks for the comment.