It was refreshing to wake up this morning to the banner headline on the New York Times‘ front page:
Core of Health Care Law Is Rejected by A U.S. Judge
The opponents of Obamacare have reason to rejoice. Yesterday’s court decision struck a blow for individual liberty and for restraint on governmental power over our lives. The progressives are on the defensive.
The judge to whom the New York Times is referring is Henry E. Hudson of the Federal district Court in Richmond, Virginia. Judge Hudson ruled that the portion of Obamacare requiring virtually every U.S. citizen to purchase at minimum a government-set amount of health insurance is unconstitutional. Responding to a lawsuit brought by Virginia’s Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the judge determined that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause must have some “logical limitation” in order to prevent unchecked Congressional power.
Judge Hudson stopped short of issuing an injunction to stop any further implementation of Obamacare. However, he advised the Executive Branch to “stay” its hand, pending appellate review.
True, Judge Hudson’s decision is not the last word on the subject, as he himself recognized in his opinion. It remains for the higher courts – ultimately, the Supreme Court – to render the final constitutional opinion. Two other district court judges, one in Michigan and another in a different Virginia district, have ruled the purchase mandate constitutional.
We are also awaiting a decision by yet another federal district court in Pensacola, Florida where twenty states have filed their own constitutional challenge. That case will be argued later this week before a judge who previously allowed the challenge to Obamacare to go forward and appears to be sympathetic to the challengers’ arguments. Hopefully, he will look to Judge Hudson’s well-reasoned opinion for further guidance.
Judge Hudson cut through all of the legalese in declaring what was at stake in the case:
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
Judge Hudson ruled that the Commerce Clause cannot be interpreted to permit Congress to force an individual to purchase a product or service against his or her free will simply because that individual is alive and living in this country. In all cases where the application of the enumerated power exercised by Congress under the Commerce Clause has been upheld as constitutional, the judge wrote, courts were dealing with the regulation of some form of action, transaction or deed first set in motion by a person that affects interstate commerce:
Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market. In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I