A Federal district court judge in Florida has ruled that a lawsuit brought against the Federal government by 20 state attorneys general and governors may proceed. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s mandatory health care requirement.
In his ruling, judge Vinson criticized the Democrats for arguing during Congressional debates that the fines that are to be imposed by the government on individuals who do not have health insurance are penalties, not taxes, while Obama Justice Department officials argued that the fines are taxes and therefore not subject to Commerce Clause constraints.
“Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an “Alice-in-Wonderland” tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check,” he wrote.
Vinson ruled that the fines are indeed penalties, and therefore their constitutionality under the Commerce Clause must be demonstrated in court.
Just last week, a Michigan judge struck down a similar challenge to the reform law, arguing that Congress was well within its constitutional authority when it crafted the law. There are several lawsuits against the health law that are working their way through the court system, but the attorney general suit is the highest-profile challenge.
Vinson dismissed three of the states’ challenges, including complaints that the law interferes with state sovereignty as to whether employers must offer insurance; that the law coerces states into setting up insurance exchanges; that the individual mandate violates the states’ due process rights.
The states argued in September that the law violates the Constitution by requiring an expansion of the Medicaid program that’s funded in part by the states and for penalizing people for not purchasing health insurance.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican who lost the state’s gubernatorial primary this summer, filed the suit minutes after President Barack Obama signed the health care bill into law in March.
It is expected that this lawsuit will end up being argued before the Supreme Court. Hopefully a Republican Congress can work to have the mandate repealed (candidate Obama opposed a mandate, remember?) but at least it is comforting to know that a lot of state officials are prepared to fight this unpopular and unconstitutional embarrassment of a law.