Judge Roger Vinson of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled yesterday that the individual mandate in ObamaCare, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is unconstitutional. This case, brought by 26 states, 2 individual citizens and the National Federation of Independent Business, is the second federal lawsuit brought against Obamacare to have found the individual mandate unconstitutional.
The 78-page order thoroughly reviewed the history, intent and case law of the Commerce Clause, which was the Administration’s Constitutional basis for the Act. Judge Vinson’s stated, "Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company (essentially for life) just for being alive and residing in the United States."
He went on to write, addressing the Administration’s fallback reliance on the Necessary and Proper clause; “If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”
Judge Vinson is the second federal judge to find the individual mandate unconstitutional, but what makes his decision unique and extremely important, is that he then struck down the entire Obamacare Act. Where previous versions of the Obamacare Act contained a severability clause, which would permit the law to stand even after one of it portions was struck down in court, Congress intentionally removed the severability clause from the final Act.
“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”
Since there was not a severability clause, the Judge concluded, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”
With this ruling, the only lawsuits against Obamacare that were decided on the merits of the case have ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional.
As it stands now, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is void. Without an appeal, the implementation of this bill must stop. Some Washington insiders expect the President and his Health and Human Services Dept. to ignore this ruling and proceed with the implementation of Obamacare. If the Administration does not file an appeal with a stay, or announce their intent to stop implementation, one of the 26 states involved in this suit must bring a contempt action against the federal government for violating a court order.
Judge Vinson’s ruling is an important step; however, it is not the final step. Eventually, after more legal wrangling, this case will proceed to a Circuit Court and then to the US Supreme Court for a final determination on the constitutionality of the individual mandate. In the meantime, the House of Representatives vote last month to repeal Obamacare and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has secured signatures from all 47 Republican Senators on a Senate bill to repeal Obamacare.