Double Trouble for ObamaCare
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In less than two years President Barack Obama has: (1) rammed through health care legislation that has alienated more than half the country; (2) sacrificed a huge majority in the House of Representatives, and came close in the Senate; (3) created a flurry of state initiatives to push back against a big-spending, heavy-handed federal government; and (4) now, instigated the first serious Tenth Amendment constitutional challenge in who knows how long.
Quite a set of accomplishments (if that’s the right word) for the president, and one can only wonder what he’ll do for an encore during his final two years.
The latest slap at our “constitutional scholar’s” overreach came from federal district Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia on Monday. The crux of the Virginia lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is a challenge to the constitutionality of the health care law’s individual mandate, which requires individuals to have health insurance or pay a fine.
Judge Hudson writes, “On careful review, the Court must conclude that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [aka, ObamaCare]—specifically the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision—exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.” Can anyone say Amen?
And there will be little time for the Obama Justice Department to lick its wounds over Monday’s loss. A second federal judge in Florida, Roger Vinson, will hear arguments on the merits of a similar challenge this week. Only in Florida it isn’t one state attorney general challenging the constitutionality the law, 20 are lined up to knock it down.
It’s too early to know how Judge Vinson will decide—there are some differences in the challenges—but ObamaCare defenders are clearly worried that he will issue a similar ruling, meaning double trouble for ObamaCare.
It’ a good sign that the U.S. health care system may survive President Obama’s determined effort to remake it; but it’s an even better sign that the U.S. Constitution will survive the Democrats’ determined effort to ignore it.
The Rasmussen polling firm has chronicled the public’s long-standing opposition to the legislation. On the day of Hudson’s ruling Rasmussen reported, “Most voters have favored repeal of the law every week since it was passed and support for repeal has now inched up to its highest level since mid-September.”
That kind of widespread, sustained public opposition is almost unheard of. It was a large part of the reason for the “shellacking” voters gave Democrats in November; and that irritation isn’t going away as long as the irritant continues to fester.
But while Judge Hudson’s decision is important for preserving the private sector and freedom of choice in health care, it’s even more important for the message it sends Washington lawmakers: The Constitution sets limits on the federal government.
For nearly a century—and especially since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “reign” (a word I use intentionally)—the political elites in Washington, many of whom sport degrees from “only the best law schools,” have looked down their collective noses at those who dared to hint that the federal government might have limited powers.
The elitists will concede that many (most?) of the early political fights in the fledgling republic were over the limits of federal power. With Thomas Jefferson leading the charge for the Democratic-Republicans (which later became the Democrats), they challenged numerous Federalist laws on the grounds that they were unconstitutional and violated the Tenth Amendment’s assertion that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
But the Democratic Party is now controlled by liberals who believe that battles over the limits of federal power are over and that big-government won. Hence, when soon-to-be-ousted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked about the constitutionality of the individual mandate, her only response was “Are you serious?” The idea that the Constitution might keep her from legislating anything she wanted to legislate was ridiculous—until now.
The fact is that neither Democrats nor the Obama Justice Department ever gave a thought to the idea that they would need to defend the constitutionality of ObamaCare—that’s just not something elitist liberals worry about. And so they never scrubbed the legislation and their defense of it to make a consistent case—a fact highlighted by Judge Vinson of Florida in a statement last October.
As PBS reported at the time: “Vinson chastised Democrats for what he called ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ tactics [ouch!]: saying during the debate over reform that the penalty leveled on people who do not buy health insurance was not a tax, but then calling it a tax in their legal defense of the mandate.”
While we don’t know where this will all end up, here’s a pretty good bet: Most or all of ObamaCare will be neutered, (1) by judges or the Supreme Court, or (2) by states that refuse to accept the law or try to bypass it, or (3) by members of Congress who are listening to the public.
The president would do himself and the country a great favor if he took a lesson from his new-found willingness to work with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts: Negotiate a bipartisan solution to our health insurance challenges and end the ObamaCare madness.
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