A second federal judge has ruled President Obama's health care overhaul to be unconstitutional, following a similar decision from a Virginia judge in December. And like that judge, Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Florida, said the law could remain in effect while the cases make their way through the court system--which could take as much as two years, The New York Times' Kevin Sack reports.Vinson found that Congress can't require people to buy insurance. Right now the Obama administration is facing these types of legal challenges to its signature piece of legislation from more than 26 states. Two other federal judges have ruled the opposite way, that the health care law is constitutional. Behold liberals explaining the result, conservatives gloating, and a few predicting where things will go from here:
- We Saw This Coming, The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen writes. "Vinson had already telegraphed the outcome, so the ruling just makes official what everyone expected anyway. ... Republicans are thrilled, of course, because activist court rulings are to be celebrated, just so long as it's activism the right can agree with." But remember, Benen writes, "overall, about a dozen federal courts have dismissed challenges to the health care law. In other words, when you hear on the news that 'courts' have a problem with the Affordable Care Act, remember that it's actually a minority of the judges who've heard cases related to the law."
- Read It and Weep, Michelle Malkin writes. "Hey, remember when conservatives objected to the Obamacare federal individual mandate on constitutional grounds and the liberal establishment laughed? The word of the day: 'Void.'"
- Just as Public Opinion Was Changing, The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn notes. "Ironically," health care reform's "political fortunes seem, finally, to be improving. Support for outright repeal appears to have ebbed and it's becoming more clear that even many of those who oppose the law want it strengthened, not weakened."
- Why He Declared the Entire Bill Void In case you're curious, liberal FireDogLake's David Dayen explains. Prepare yourself for some serious wonkitude:
What you may not understand is why the entire law was ruled null and void, if the ruling really only discussed the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate. As District Judge Roger Vinson explains in his ruling, the bill did not pass with a standard severability clause, which typically bills like this would have. That allows a judge to split off unconstitutional pieces from a bill in litigation while leaving the rest of the bill, having passed Constitutional muster, intact. The severability clause is a feature of almost all major legislation in Congress, and it was in the ACA at one point, but through the different versions, somewhere down the line, it was excised. This gave Judge Vinson the power to decide on his own whether or not to sever the individual mandate from the bill. ... So if the Supreme Court upholds this ruling – and that’s not out of the realm of possibility – Democrats in Congress will have nobody to blame but themselves.
- Everyone Will Freak Out, The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen predicted last week. But they shouldn't. What really matters is that "two of the Supreme Court's most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, [chose] to signal to friend and foe alike where they stand on the Commerce Clause--and almost certainly the Patient Protection Act itself." The two dissented strongly in the case of Alderman v. United States, which "colleagues [chose] not to hear (and thus not to overturn)." Thomas and Scalia suggested not overturning this meant "Congress could ban possession of french fries that have been offered for sale in interstate commerce." Seeing this come from these two justices, Cohen explains, "confirms to the world that no more than seven votes on the Supreme Court are still in play over the constitutionality of the federal health care measure."
- It All Comes Down to One Guy, Drew M. writes at Ace of Spades, seeing Anthony Kennedy as the key swing voter.