Opponents of the health care reform bill signed into law this past spring got a big boost from Virginia federal judge Henry Hudson today, who ruled that the mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional:
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote that no court had expanded the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to allow the government to regulate a person’s decision not to buy a product.
“At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate,” Hudson wrote.
In his order, he said he will allow the law to remain in effect while appeals are heard, meaning there is unlikely to be any immediate impact on other provisions that have already taken effect. The insurance coverage mandate is not scheduled to begin until 2014.
“The outcome of this case has significant public policy implications,” Hudson wrote. “And the final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court.”
There’s no doubt that the Supreme Court will have the final say on the Constitutionality of the individual mandate, but this is still a big victory. Judge Hudson is right when he says that Congress wasn’t meant to abuse the Commerce Clause to justify anything and everything it wants to do (which invalidates most of the progressive agenda, as Ed Morrissey snarks).
It should also serve to silence those politicians who arrogantly assumed there was absolutely no question they had the authority to do this. Michelle Malkin recalls Nancy Pelosi and Patrick Leahy scoffing at the notion there might be any legal reason to give pause and consider their legislation’s legality a bit deeper. The ruling today, while offset by two other rulings upholding the individual mandate, underscore that there is at least some judicial merit to questioning the application of the Commerce Clause to compel Americans to buy a product in the name of interstate commerce.
Hudson seems to think parts of the law can go forward even if the individual mandate is finally struck down (the “severability” issue). But the mandate is the linchpin underlying the entire exercise, for without forcing everyone to buy in, there isn’t a big enough pool to cover all the necessary costs. If the mandate is ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, immediate scrapping and reform of the health care bill will be required.
More court battles lie ahead, as the mega-lawsuit brought by 20 states has yet to be heard. But this remains a key step in unraveling a monstrous bill passed through the apathy and arrogance of a Congress too enamored with its own power and too obsessed with its own agenda to give a damn about the objections of the American people.