federal healthcare law

Eleventh Circuit Court Of Appeals: ObamaCare's Individual Mandate Is Unconstitutional

Funny how August, supposedly the slowest of all months for news, can gobsmack you in the face with a flying hammer full of headlines, and on a Friday of all things. In fact, there is a fair amount of state news today, as well as our open house last night, that we wanted to write about today. But that will wait to next week. For now, it's all about ObamaCare and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling today that the linchpin of ObamaCare — the individual mandate (i.e., the government forcing citizens to buy a product) — is unconstitutional, and some observations. Here's a good first look analysis by Bryan Preston of Pajamas Media.com. » The court seems to indicate that the rest of the law is constitutional. However, without the funding the forced purchases and penalties provide, there is no way the law can be funded (unless President Obama takes us trillions further in debt). But as far as the mandate, the court used phrases such as "unbounded assertion of congressional authority" and called its reach "breathtaking in scope," going further even than opponents had in their arguments.

» It's interesting that the 11th Circuit came to its decision this quickly: The 4th Circuit, known as the "Rocket Docket," heard the Virginia challenge earlier and still has not released its decision.

»The 11th Circuit's 2-1, 304-page decision apparently says the individual mandate is unconstitutional but the other parts may be constitutional. Judge Roger Vinson, the Federal District Court Judge in Florida, on whose opinion the appeal was based, ruled the entire law was unconstitutional. After all, the law has no severability clause which stipulates that if any part of a bill is ruled unconstitutional, then the remaining parts will remain in place. Without that clause, once the 11th Circuit ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional, the entire law must be ruled unconstitutional. But, we'll take this major decision for now.

» The three judge panel was made up of one Bill Clinton appointee, one George W. Bush appointee, and one Clinton appointee who was appointed to the Federal District bench by Ronald Reagan.

» Here is a key sentence from Judge Vinson that the 11th Circuit upheld today:

The individual mandate exceeds Congress’ commerce power, as it is understood, defined, and applied in the existing Supreme Court case law.

» Where are Eliot Spitzer and all the liberals who mocked the intelligence of all state Attorneys General for filing suit against ObamaCare, saying that they had no chance and it clearly is constitutional? This is now at least the third federal court to rule it unconstitutional, including the Federal District Court for Eastern Virginia (Judge Henry Hudson). Where are all the leftist activists who yelled that these legal actions were "a waste of time and tax dollars"? Isn't it nice to stay quiet and let them eat crow when the time comes?

» Kyle Wingfield of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has good information on the decision and is updating it frequently. He provides this nugget from the 304-page ruling,as legal analysts continue to pour through the lengthy document.

It cannot be denied that the individual mandate is an unprecedented exercise of congressional power. … Never before has Congress sought to regulate commerce by compelling non-market participants to enter into commerce so that Congress may regulate them. The statutory language of the mandate is not tied to health care consumption — past, present, or in the future. Rather, the mandate is to buy insurance now and forever. The individual mandate does not wait for market entry.

» David Rivkin, the attorney hired by the more than two dozen attorneys general to argue — and who won — the multi-state lawsuit in Federal District Court in Florida, issued this news release. The former Reagan administration attorney, and one of America's top legal minds on a myriad of disciplines, said the ruling is a major victory for ObamaCare opponents and that the court's decision confirms almost verbatim his original argument in a series of editorials dating from August of 2009. He has been correct on this matter consistently, and recently laid out on SCOTUSBlog.com how and why ObamaCare will get struck down in the U.S. Supreme Court. From his release:

The Court has made clear that it will vindicate federalism against encroachment by either the federal government or the state. [It] has consistently held that there must be some areas of life, even where there may be some remote economic impact, that constitutionally remain within the States’ regulatory authority alone.

» Governor Bob McDonnell issued this statement:

I am pleased by today’s decision. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has correctly determined that the Commerce Clause provides no constitutional basis for a mandate that citizens must purchase a specific commercial product or face a penalty. The individual mandate provision . . . represents an unprecedented expansion of federal authority. In issuing their ruling, the court's majority wrote that, "the individual mandate was enacted as a regulatory penalty, not a revenue-raising tax, and cannot be sustained as an exercise of Congress's power under the Taxing and Spending Clause." It is clearly in direct contrast to the limited powers granted to our national government by the Constitution.

The decision by the 11th Circuit is similar to the prior district court ruling on Virginia's challenge to the federal healthcare law. ... this issue must be heard in an expedited manner by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Department of Justice has resisted all prior requests to fast track this issue to the nation's highest court. That is disappointing and I again urge the Department of Justice to call for expedited review. This law will impact every American. Regardless of where one stands on the policy and constitutional questions at hand, all should at least be able to agree on the need for certainty, finality and uniform application of the law throughout the country.

» Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued this statement:

I am pleased that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found the individual insurance mandate and penalty unconstitutional. The court determined that the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another is outside the established outer limits of both the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. The court also ruled that although the president and Congress want to now call the penalty a tax to make it pass constitutional muster, the penalty cannot be sustained under the federal government's taxing authority because the penalty is clearly not a tax.

I congratulate our fellow attorneys general in this major victory, and although this court is not in our circuit, I am pleased that the judges ruled in favor of the two key arguments that are present in our Virginia suit.

Healthcare Lawsuit Update From Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Yesterday, we published the official statement of Governor Bob McDonnell regarding the one year anniversary of the federal healthcare law. In it, he mentions that more than half the nation's governors support Virginia's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case directly (although the 20-plus states that won in Florida Federal District Court are, for now, content to resume battle with the feds in Appeals Court). Today, we post a mildly abbreviated version of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's update of the case's status, as sent to supporters earlier today.

Virginia is on a 'dual track' in the case at the moment. We have a motion to expedite the case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the same time we are briefing the case for presentation to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals — the appellate court that covers Virginia.

We have asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case under its Rule 11. They only do this for one or two cases per decade, so don't bet a lot of money on this one; however, the nature and cost of the healthcare law is the type that they have expedited in the past, so we'll see what they do.

We submitted the final brief on expediting this week. The Supreme Court will consider our request on April 15th. We could see a decision by the Supreme Court as soon as April 18th. ...

Under Rule 11 of the Supreme Court, Virginia has requested that the Supreme Court pull the case out of the Court of Appeals and hear it directly. This could cut almost a year off of the case, resulting in ENORMOUS savings to both state governments and the private sector if the law is found unconstitutional and stricken. And why go through all the hoops of getting ready to implement a law that may be stricken anyway? Oh, I'm sorry, there I go thinking logically again . . . naturally the Obama administration is opposing this effort . . . I know you're shocked.

You might ask yourself, "Won't the Supreme Court want to hear from Appellate Court judges?" And the answer is "maybe." Remember this case is pure legal argument. There are no documents or other discovery to consider, no trial witnesses, in fact there was no trial at all. So, we are re-arguing the same pure legal arguments from the district court again in the Court of Appeals. Also, five different judges have addressed the merits of the case, with more to come. So, there are going to be an unusual number of judges' opinions to look at — should the Supremes so choose — without even getting to the appeals courts.

Thus far, we are the only state requesting that the Supreme Court exercise its discretion to expedite the case. Whether or not the Supreme Court decides to expedite the case is entirely within their discretion, so it's hard to tell what may happen. ...

At the same time, we are about to submit our first of two briefs in the appellate court. In their opening brief, the feds made essentially the same arguments that they made in the district court. And while we adjust our presentation to include elements of other cases, our arguments will be the same as in the district court.

We will argue our case on May 10th before a three judge panel of the 4th Circuit (assuming the Supreme Court does NOT expedite the case, thereby taking it out of the appeals court). We will not know who those three judges are until the day of the argument.

Following our hearing, it would then be reasonable to look for a ruling around mid-July. I expect each side to react differently depending on who wins.

If Virginia wins in the 4th Circuit, I expect the federal government to ask the full 4th Circuit to rehear the case en banc (i.e., with all 14 judges of the 4th Circuit participating). This would be consistent with their efforts to drag the case out, as that may add several more months in the 4th Circuit, at which point, whichever side loses en banc will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the feds win in the 4th Circuit, I expect that we will immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Once we get to the Supreme Court, I would expect to brief and argue the case during the next term of the Court. The next term of the Court will run from the beginning of October 2011 through the end of June 2012.

I would then expect that a final decision in our case will most likely be made (best guess) toward the end of June 2012. I think it will be very hard for the Obama administration to drag the case beyond June of 2012.

Obviously, that is very interesting timing in light of the Presidential race. And it further baffles me as to why the President would want to drag the case as close to Election Day as possible. ...

Put Restrictions On ObamaCare In Virginia And Help Preserve Unborn Life

Virginia took the lead in opposing ObamaCare — first, with last year's Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, then, later in the year, with a legal challenge to ObamaCare's constitutionality. This year, HB 2147, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge), would prevent insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange, required by ObamaCare, from providing abortion coverage.  HB 2147 was introduced as a preemptive measure to ensure that Virginia taxpayers are not forced to subsidize abortion in the event that the lawsuit is not successful. If ObamaCare was fully implemented today, Virginia could potentially include in its exchange health insurance plans that cover elective abortion. Pro-family citizens opposed to abortion would be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. However, the new federal healthcare law allows states to opt out of abortion funding in their statewide exchanges. More than 30 states have either passed or are introducing opt-out legislation regarding the coverage of abortion in these exchanges, while Pennsylvania and Maryland include it.

Please contact your delegate as soon as possible (contact information here) and urge him or her to vote for the bill (or, click here to determine your delegate).