Federal judge deems part of ObamaCare unconstitutional

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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A federal judge in Virginia has determined that the part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson deemed that part of the law unconstitutional in the first part of what is sure to be a case that will end up in the Supreme Court. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli led the fight in his state.

“I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Hudson said the part of the law that requires individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional because it “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.”

A district court in Florida is expected to hear oral arguments on Thursday for a 21-state lawsuit that also challenges the law’s requirements for individuals. The Florida case is expected to end up in the Supreme Court as well.

On October 7, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the health care reform was constitutional. The judge agreed with the Obama administrations assertions that people who don’t need health insurance should be required to purchase it to make sure the pool of insured persons was a balance between healthy people and sick people, allowing companies to better comply with the new regulations.

UPDATE 1:13 p.m.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement on the ruling, praising Cuccinelli for his work on the case.

“Today’s ruling is a clear affirmation that President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional,” Cantor said. “The efforts of Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli have raised legitimate concerns and ensured that the people of the Commonwealth will have their rights protected against this unconstitutional law. Ultimately, we must ensure that no American will be forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance they may not need, want, or be able to afford.”

Cantor also called for Obama to request the case go directly to the Supreme Court.

“To ensure an expedited process moving forward, I call on President Obama and Attorney General Holder to join Attorney General Cuccinelli in requesting that this case be sent directly to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Cantor said. “In this challenging environment, we must not burden our states, employers, and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately.”

UPDATE 2:42 p.m.

Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, issued a statement on the ruling, saying that the unconstitutionality of the law, as deemed by Judge Hudson, is another reason the law should be repealed.

“With Judge Hudson’s decision, a federal court has now ruled in accordance with what I have always said: ObamaCare’s requirement that Americans purchase health insurance or pay a fine is unconstitutional,” said King. “ObamaCare’s ‘individual mandate’ always rested on the absurd premise that the Commerce Clause empowered the federal government to regulate Americans’ decisions not to engage in commercial activity. Adoption of such an argument would have vested the federal government with the power to regulate virtually every aspect of Americans’ lives, and Judge Hudson remained true to the Constitution by rejecting this argument and striking the individual mandate down. With the ‘individual mandate’ that lies at the heart of the legislation ruled unconstitutional, the badly-flawed ObamaCare law is now completely dysfunctional, further accelerating the need for Congress to repeal it.”

UPDATE: 3:04 p.m.

Monday afternoon, Cuccinelli said he’s pleased with Judge Hudson’s decision, adding that he has always said the case was about “liberty, not health care.”

“It is not about health insurance, it is not about health care,” Cuccinelli said. “It is about liberty and the judge said as much in his order.

Cuccinelli said the Obama administration tried to argue with “leaps of logic and language.”

“All of the commerce clause cases that are relevant to the consideration of this case speak about economic activity and the regulation by the federal government of economic activity,” Cuccinelli said. “The federal government asked the court to call economic activity or something affecting economic activity the decision by individual Americans not to buy health insurance, the decision not to buy health insurance. They wanted to convert the decision to do nothing into economic activity or into something that affects economic activity and this judge and this court rejected that.”

Cuccinelli said he’s not sure when this case will reach the Supreme Court, but expects it to end there. He added that, because of major GOP takeovers in state-level elections around the country, it could be possible that more than half of the states in the U.S. could join the lawsuit against the federal government, something he said he’s never heard of happening before.

UPDATE 3:11 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Monday afternoon that the Obama administration is not worried about the ruling from Judge Hudson in Virginia that the part of the health care overhaul mandating most Americans purchase some form of health insurance is unconstitutional.

“We’re confident that it is constitutional,” Gibbs said, adding that those mandate provisions in the bill are not scheduled to go into effect until 2014 anyway, which he said gives the administration time to react.

UPDATE 3:52 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both commented on Judge Hudson’s decision.

Pelosi focused her statement on the benefits the health care reform provides people and how other cases nationwide have either been dismissed or viewed as constitutional.

“Today’s court ruling stands in stark contrast to 14 similar challenges to the Affordable Care Act – in two, federal district judges strongly upheld the law; in the other 12, the challenges have been dismissed,” Pelosi said. “Since its enactment, health insurance reform has delivered concrete benefits to millions of Americans.  Among provisions already benefitting the American people, it has offered small businesses a tax break to cover their workers, allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, and provided assistance to seniors struggling to pay prescription drug costs.  These changes are good for our middle class, and will not be impacted by this court’s decision to overturn a single provision of the law.”

Reid attacked those in favor of the unconstitutionality ruling, saying they’re in favor of giving power back to big insurance companies.

“Opponents of reform have tried everything to protect insurance companies and block common-sense protections for middle-class families in Nevada and across the nation,” Reid said. “That fight is over. It’s time to move on, and work together to implement reform in a way that puts families in control of their health care, and lowers costs for both families and small businesses.”