Three cheers. There’s a long road ahead, but the first obstacle has been overcome. Florida judge Roger Vinson ruled this afternoon that 20 lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Obamacare mandate can continue:
ABC News’ Ariane de Vogue reports: In a blow to the Obama administration, a federal judge in Florida today issued a ruling allowing parts of a lawsuit by 20 states challenging the recently passed health care legislation to proceed.
The two parts of the law that will proceed to trial are expansion of Medicaid and the individual mandate that requires qualifying individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014.
Of all the challenges to the health care law, this is one of the most interesting because of the numbers of states that have signed on. At issue today were mostly procedural issues not the core constitutional questions. The office of Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida who issued today’s ruling, said the trial is scheduled to start in early December.
You can find the order and analysis here.
Constitutional law scholar Randy Barnett weighs in on the significance of the Florida ruling as well as a similar ruling in Virginia:
In denying the government’s motion to dismiss the challenge to the individual health insurance mandate, Judge Vinson ruled that “the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action.” This is because of the unprecedented nature of the government’s claim of power. As Judge Vinson explained, all previous commerce clause cases involved the regulation of “voluntary undertaking[s]” or activity. But “in this case we are dealing with something very different. The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake.”
This decision now join’s District Judge Henry Hudson’s ruling in Virginia refusing to dismiss the challenge to the individual mandate. In both Virginia and Florida we now move to a decision on the merits. Given how well both judges understood the constitutional novelty of imposing economic mandates on the people, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that they will find the individual insurance mandate to be unconstitutional. But, however the district courts rule on this case, their reception of the arguments made by the state attorneys general foretell that the ultimate decision will be made by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Vinson derides the “Alice in Wonderland” reasoning of the Obamacare mandate’s defenders.