The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Obamacare Ruling

Robert VerBruggen is exactly right, below, about that Obamacare ruling in a federal court in Texas on Friday.

I’ve written about the case around here before, and this ruling hasn’t changed my view of it. You won’t find many people more opposed to Obamacare than I am, but the logic of the plaintiff states here (and all the more so the logic of the administration’s brief in the case) just doesn’t hold together, and Friday’s ruling only made that more clear.

Chief Justice Roberts’s 2012 ruling that the individual mandate is constitutionally sustainable as a tax was silly to begin with, but it is the ruling precedent. The idea that zeroing out the tax (which Congress did last year) thereby renders the now inoperative mandate unconstitutional is dubious but trivial—as the provision is inoperative anyway. But the notion that this inoperative mandate is actually necessary for the functioning of the rest of the system created by the statute—a notion that rests on applying the intent of the 2010 Congress over that of the 2017 Congress when considering the situation created by the 2017 Congress’s act of legislation—well that doesn’t even merit being called silly. It’s ridiculous.

If the ruling gets backed up with an actual enforceable injunction, it will surely be appealed. And it should, and probably will, get overturned on appeal.

Obamacare was terrible legislation that yielded terrible administration. But the answer to it can’t be terrible jurisprudence.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


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