Today Florida federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. In his ruling on the challenge brought by 26 states, Judge Vinson found, “â€¦because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.” Judge Vinson also noted, “The individual mandate exceeds Congress’ commerce power, as it is understood, defined, and applied in the existing Supreme Court case law.”
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell commented on the ruling today saying, “Judge Vinson’s ruling is yet another strike against the individual mandate specifically, and the entire federal health care law generally. For the second time in as many months, a federal judge has found that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by mandating that citizens of this nation purchase a commercial product or else face a penalty.”
Virginia Judge Henry Hudson reached a similar conclusion in his December ruling on the Commonwealth’s challenge to the Act. However, Judge Vinson’s decision today goes one step further. The Florida Judge also ruled that the individual mandate component is not severable from the overall Act in which it is contained, meaning that this one unconstitutional provision renders the entire bill void.
Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior White House Advisor said, “Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching. The judge’s decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent that support the considered judgment of the democratically elected branches of government that the Act’s ‘individual responsibility’ provision is necessary to prevent billions of dollars of cost-shifting every year by individuals without insurance who cannot pay for the health care they obtain.”
She also emphatically declared that, “We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts.”
The divided opinions have set the stage for what could be a landmark constitutional debate in the higher courts, with a final decision expected in the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps as soon as next year.