The legal challenges to the health-overhaul law have gone from quixotic to indisputably serious with U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s blockbuster decision declaring the entire law unconstitutional.
The White House reportedly was caught off guard but quickly “went into a full convulsive rage” at Vinson, writes Jonathan Turley of George Washington University in USA Today. Turley also writes that the administration itself was ultimately to blame: The White House “played a game of chicken over health care with the court and lost a critical battle in Florida. Instead of inserting a ‘severability clause’ designed to protect an act from this type of global rejection, the legislation was rammed through a divided Congress with diminishing public support.”
He continues: “Even for some of us who support national health care, the bill unnecessarily triggered the constitutional fight that led to its rejection in two federal courts … Even if one accepts that the removal of the clause was just some colossal, inexplicable blunder, it was the blunder of the White House and Congress — not the courts.”
The main defense from the administration appears to be: Our nation has a health-care crisis; the only way to solve it is with a centralized, government-micromanaged overhaul; for this Rube Goldberg apparatus to work, the government must force everyone to buy health insurance. Therefore, because we need health-care reform, it is “necessary and proper” — and therefore constitutional — for the government to force us all to buy health insurance.
The court didn’t buy it. “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” Vinson concluded.
So what’s next? Florida and Wisconsin, two of the 26 states that were plaintiffs in the Florida case, have said they believe it means they don’t have to implement the law, although at least Wisconsin seems to be backing off that position.
The Florida decision likely means that the higher circuit court of appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to accelerate their rulings.
White House “rage” and partisan attacks aside, Judge Vinson’s decision is gaining widespread respect for his “exhaustive and erudite opinion [that] is an important moment for American liberty,” according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.
And the individual mandate is the apex of that battle because it goes to such a fundamental question of control over our life and liberty. The struggle over control of our health sector is the fight for freedom of our generation and well worth the attention of the courts, Congress, and the country.