On Monday, Judge Roger Vinson in Florida ruled the individual mandate portion of last year’s healthcare legislation is unconstitutional, and therefore, the judge wrote, “the entire Act must be declared void.” He reasoned that the mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance or face penalty fees—the least popular provision in the healthcare reform act—could not simply be removed. “I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” he wrote. “The individual mandate cannot be severed.”
This is a victory for the 26 states that teamed up to challenge the law once President Obama signed it last March, and it is the latest blow to proponents who fought tooth and nail to see the legislation through a divided Congress. A Virginia judge ruled against the individual mandate in December, and since the Republican-led House voted to repeal the law last month, the Senate GOP is now pushing for a similar vote. It is unlikely Obama would sign a law repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Justice Department has already announced its intent to appeal the ruling, a move that most likely will bring the fight eventually to the Supreme Court. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should the healthcare law be repealed?]
Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter wrote on the White House blog a critique of the ruling as “judicial overreaching” and pointed out that several judges have dismissed cases challenging the law, and two judges have even upheld it. “We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts,” she wrote. “History and the facts are on our side."
Some argue the ruling was all politics. "Can we expect more such creative reasoning as the case moves forward?" asks The New Republic blogger Jonathan Cohn, questioning parts of Vinson's reasoning he sees as contradictory. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein points out that in the cases on the healthcare law so far, judges appointed by Democrats have ruled for the law, and those appointed by Republicans have ruled against it. "There's currently a 2-2 split," he writes. "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."
U.S. News bloggers Peter Roff and Ron Bonjean disagree. Bonjean writes that the healthcare law was a case of politicians overreaching, and the ruling came as confirmation “for millions of Americans and thousands of small businesses who employ them that they were justified in believing it had all gone too far.” Roff says the ruling is a step toward freedom. “Liberty, it turns out, is not as shopworn and outmoded a concept as some people lately like to argue it is,” he writes.
What do you think? Was the Florida judge’s ruling against the new healthcare law the right call? Take the poll and post your thoughts below.
This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.
Previously: How Well Is Obama Handling the Egypt Crisis?