A district judge in Florida ruled on Monday that key elements of President Obama's federal health care law are unconstitutional -- a ruling Attorney General Greg Abbott called "a historic decision, overturning a mandate by Congress unprecedented in this nation's history."
Speaking at an afternoon press conference at the Price Daniel Building in downtown Austin, Abbott said that while he had not had time to carefully review the decision, he thought it "brilliant" in that it focused on the individual mandate included in the health care bill, which Abbott called "unprecedented government overreach."
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled, as expected, in favor of the state of Texas and 25 other states whose attorneys general joined in a lawsuit challenging the section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring Americans to purchase health insurance. This so-called individual mandate is unconstitutional, Vinson determined in his 78-page order:
It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. ... It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.
Vinson wrote than since the individual mandate was central to health care reform, and could not be "severed" from the act's other requirements, "the entire Act must be declared void." In doing so, he went farther than U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia, who in December issued a similar opinion but determined that even though the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the remaining parts of the law could be "severed" from the requirement.
The federal government is expected to appeal the ruling to the the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Abbott said. The case will likely end up at the Supreme Court, "where the people of this country deserve an answer as quickly possible," he said.
Vinson's ruling comes a week after the U.S. House voted to repeal the act. The vote was considered largely symbolic because a Democratic-controlled Senate is not likely to allow a vote on the repeal, and if it did approve such a measure, the President would almost certainly veto it.
When asked by reporters to respond to criticism that the lawsuit was a political stunt, Abbott said, "Judge Vinson's ruling has demonstrated how serious the lawsuit challenge is."
"For the first time in the nation's history, the federal government is attempting to force individual Americans to enter into contracts and purchase services from private companies, in this case, insurance companies, or face a penalty," Abbott said in a press release distributed at the conference. "The state attorneys general are challenging this so-called individual mandate requirement, explaining that such an imposition on the American people exceeds Congress' authority and violates Americans' constitutional rights."
In addition to Texas and Florida, where the lawsuit originated, the others states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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