Florida Judge Declares Healthcare Law Unconstitutional

A Florida judge ruled a key part of the legislation unconstitutional, said this makes entire law void.

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By Nina Mandell
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

President Obama's health care overhaul took what could be another judicial blow Monday when a federal judge in Florida ruled a key part of it unconstitutional.

The ruling applies mainly to the part of the legislation that requires people to buy health insurance by 2014 or face fines.

With the ruling, Judge Roger Vinson, a Republican appointee, accepted the argument from the 26 states that filed the suit.

The law, according to Vinson, was "outside Congress' Commerce Clause power and it cannot be otherwise authorized by an assertion of power under the Necessary and Proper Clause," the Wall Street Journal reported. [See a slide show of 10 ways the GOP can take down Obamacare.]

While it's a small - and perhaps one of the most controversial parts of the legislation -the clause makes the entire law void, according to Vinson.

The White house slammed the ruling as judicial overreach as the Justice Department said it would appeal.

"We strongly disagree with the court's ruling today and continue to believe -- as other federal courts have found -- that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," Stephanie Cutter, a senior advisor to the President, posted in a statement on the White House website.

The ruling, which is considered the most high-profile in the numerous lawsuits filed against the new legislation, may not ever matter. The case is widely expected to go the Supreme Court.

The Obama administration, however, did not have a complete washout day in court. [See a roundup of political cartoons on healthcare.]

The states have also argued that the law's mandatory expansion of the Medicaid program commandeered states into federal service, but Vinson ruled with the federal government on that, arguing that states can leave Medicaid, Politico reported.

The ruling isn't the end of the world for supporters of the legislation, according to experts.

Even if that federal mandate is ruled unconstitutional in the likely Supreme Court case, states themselves could enforce a mandate on their own.

In Massachusetts, a mandate stemming from Mitt Romney-led health care insurance has not been overturned by the courts.

The Obama administration might not even have to go that route. Constitutional scholars have also argued that the individual mandate falls under the same powers that Congress uses to enforce taxation.

While any effect from the latest court ruling, if any, will not go be seen for a long time, opponents of the health care act are lauding Vinson’s decision as a major victory.

Sen. Orrin Hatch praised the ruling, saying "Congress does not have the legal authority to tell Utahns and other Americans that they must buy health insurance or else."