Monday, December 13, 2010

Federal Judge Rules Key Provision of Obamacare is Unconstitutional; UPDATED



Obamacare was dealt a serious blow today by a federal judge in Virginia, who ruled that the scheme's requirement that private citizens purchase a health insurance policy was not constitutional, and goes beyond any previous interpretation of the interstate commerce clause. Via Bloomberg:

The Obama administration’s requirement that most citizens maintain minimum health coverage as part of a broad overhaul of the industry is unconstitutional because it forces people to buy insurance, a federal judge ruled, striking down the linchpin of the president’s plan.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Virginia, said today that the requirement in President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation goes beyond Congress’s powers to regulate interstate commerce. While severing the coverage mandate, Hudson didn’t address other provisions such as expanding Medicaid that are unrelated to it. He didn't order the government to stop work on putting the remainder of the law into effect.

Hudson found the minimum essential coverage provision of the act “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.” Hudson was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.

This is a big step toward the eventual elimination of Obamacare. Although the judge left other provisions intact, the plan is a house of cards and this is the biggest card. Ultimately, of course, this will be decided by the Supreme Court, but this is big news and Obama can't be happy with the decision.

Update: Ed Morrissey has more here.

Update II: In deciding that government clearly lacks the constitutional authority to require citizens to purchase health insurance policies, Judge Hudson makes a great point:

"Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing or nutritional decisions," Hudson wrote. "This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation" and is unsupported by previous legal cases around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The judge has it exactly right here. If the government can require the purchase of health insurance via the commerce clause, where does this authority end? Can they also require is to purchase Chevy Volts or ride on public transportation manned by public employee unions? Can they force us to buy light bulbs that don't provide adequate light? Can they tell us what we can and can't eat? Where does it end? Did the Founding Fathers intend for the commerce clause to be used for these purposes? I think not.

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