U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled for the plaintiffs (the State of Florida along with 25 other states, including Iowa Governor Branstad’s administration) that the individual mandate in the health care reform law is unconstitutional. Not only that he found that the entire law should be found void. Judge Vinson wrote in the conclusion of his opinion:
The existing problems in our national health care system are recognized by every0ne in this case. There is widespread sentiment for positive improvements that will reduce costs, improve the quality of care, and expand availability in a way that the nation can afford. This is obviously a very difficult task. Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act,Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution. Again,this case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation. It is about the Constitutional role of the federal government.
For the reasons stated, I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here.
Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.
The White House and several bloggers and pundits on the left are crying judicial activism! (Kind of ironic considering that they embrace legal positivism). Amongst all of the chatter about today’s decision I wanted to point out Philip Klein’s piece over at The American Spectator. Klein writes why Judge Vinson was right in overturning the entire law based on severability:
Liberals make it seem as if Vinson’s exception in this case was totally arbitrary, but if you read through the discussion of the severability issue on pages 63 to 74 of the decision, it becomes clear why the judge ruled that this instance was unique.
Citing relevant case law, Vinson goes through several tests for whether making an exception is appropriate. Among them are whether the rest of the law would be operational without the individual mandate and whether Congress would have passed the rest of the law without the mandate.
William Jacobson has a great breakdown on his blog as well. It will be interesting to see how this does on appeal.