The news making its way through the legal blogosphere, and the online news outlets, is that the 11th Circuit has ruled the individual mandate part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Act”) is unconstitutional.
Let me underscore that: only the individual mandate was found unconstitutional. The rest of the law has been, for now, left untouched.
The Washington Post called it one of the “most significant legal setbacks to the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul.”
If you’re short on time, read at least the excerpts of the 2-1 decision (of a very lengthy opinion) over at the Volokh Conspiracy. In short the Act is:
[…] 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. The mandate is denominated as a penalty in the Act itself, and the legislative history and relevant case law confirm this reading of its function.
Further, the individual mandate exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional.
Etc, etc…and, here’s the part the right will love:
This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives. “
Too bad this didn’t come out yesterday. The Iowa Republican debate would have been that much more juicy with the ruling hanging in the air, even with the Supreme Court still in the Act’s future.
If you have more time, here are a few more commentaries you might look at:
One of the more odd things about the majority opinion — at least in my humble opinion — is its use of an overinclusiveness argument. Over/underinclusiveness is a consideration in individual rights cases, but, in my opinion, has no real role to play when it comes to evaluating a Congressional action under the Commerce Clause. The over/underinclusiveness analysis is designed to get at the sincerity of a legislature’s expressed motivations. For example, if a legislature regulates more broadly (or narrowly) than necessary to solve a particular problem, one can infer that it may be dislike for a certain group, rather than a desire to solve the stated problem, that motivates the legislature action.
Jonathan Turley, expressing concerns about federalism issue the Act affects opined that
I view the health care legislation as presenting a new type of federal claim and one that could leave few things as protected by federalism by expanding Congress’ enumerated powers to an unprecedented scope.
In other words, if the feds can do this, what can’t they do? (And, I would add, what does that mean for the 10th Amendment?
Significantly, Judge Frank Hull, a Clinton appointee has now become the first Democratic-appointed judge to vote to strike down the mandate, balancing Republican Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton who voted to uphold it. The decision further undermines claims that the individual mandate suit is a sure loser that goes against a supposed expert consensus that the mandate is clearly constitutional.
- Appeals Court Rules Portion of Obama Health Care Bill Unconstitutional (abcnews.go.com)
- 11th Circuit Strikes Down Individual Mandate (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Unconstitutional: 11th Circuit Rules Against the Health Care Mandate (swampland.time.com)
- 11th Circuit Rules Health Care Individual Mandate Unconstitutional (swampland.time.com)
- Appeals court rules healthcare law’s ‘individual mandate’ unconstitutional (thehill.com)