As much as they will try to pooh pooh it, a decision today on Obamacare by a federal judge in Florida has got to have the White House worrying: U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has just declared the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that citizens purchase health insurance or pay a fine, is unconstitutional. Vinson’s ruling is more far-reaching than an earlier one in Virginia:



Vinson’s decision went a step further than the Virginia ruling by not only declaring that the mandate was unconstitutional, but striking down the rest of the law as a result.



As enacted, the law did not include what’s known as a “severability clause,” which specifies that if one part of the law is struck down, the rest of the law stands.  Those challenging the law have argued that as a result, the whole law should be struck down, too.  While U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Richmond declined to do so, Vinson argued that, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”


My colleague Hadley Heath at the indispensable Health Care Lawsuits has the essential information along with some excellent responses. I’ll just quote one, by Stephen Presser, a Northwestern University legal scholar:



It is surely significant that more than half the states had joined in this lawsuit, believing that the federal government, in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, went far beyond what the Constitution permits.  With Judge Vinson’s clear determination that ours is still a federal  government of limited and enumerated powers, those states are vindicated, as are those of us who have spent our professional careers believing in the rule of law and believing that the Constitution is not an infinitely plastic document.   James Madison and the other framers who believed in a delicate balance between state and federal sovereignty, and who recognized the dangers of overweening centralized power have had their legacy renewed by this courageous, sensible, and honest jurist.


An important point that has so far not received much notice: The ruling halts implementation of the health care law and notes that there is no need for an for an injunction to accomplish this. This ruling is sufficient. Hadley has a link to the ruling in its entirety.


Ace Washington Post blogger Jen Rubin, who is a lawyer, has this to say on the injunction issue



I read the section on “Injunction” and could scarely believe my eyes. Was the judge ordering the government not to enforce ObamaCare in all 26 states? Oh, yes, indeed.



Robert Alt of the Heritage Institute e-mailed me, “The judge noted that declaratory relief is the functional equivalent of an injunction, and applied the long-standing presumption ‘that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court.’ So in the case, the judge asserted that the declaratory relief should bind the parties. If the Obama administration wishes to impose the requirements of Obamacare upon the states, it will need to seek a stay of the opinion either from the judge, or from the 11th Circuit.”



Yeah, wow.


(Quite perplexingly, a blog at NRO says that the ruling will not halt implementation, but a response rejoins that it will because this ruling amounts to an injunction. )   


Added to the number of states that are party to the lawsuit, a new Rasmussen survey shows that Americans favor repeal of the monster law by 20 points, though confidence that the law will be repealed is down. Jeffrey Anderson speculates that the reason for this is the Democratic Senate’s refusal to allow the repeal bill, passed overwhelmingly in the House, up for a vote. But we should not lose heart: today’s decision, coupled with the public’s desire to get rid of this awful bill, means that, if those who want repeal don’t give up, there is a good chance that they will prevail.