Monday, December 13, 2010

Federal judge rules individual mandate unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson declared a key provision of the Obama administration’s health reform law unconstitutional Monday in Richmond, VA.

Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, siding with the suit brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R). The lawsuit is one of 25 legal challenges to the law, including one filed by 20 states in Florida, which remains pending. In two other lawsuits, judges in Michigan and Lynchburg, VA, have found the same provision to pass legal muster.

Hudson rejected the argument that the government has the authority under the Commerce Clause to require individuals to buy health insurance, stating “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.”

Hudson’s ruling will deal a significant political blow to the current legislation, as much of the law’s framework hinges on an individual mandate to purchase health insurance. The mandate is not set to take effect until 2014.

The Virginia lawsuit would ordinarily be heard next by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; however, Cucinelli has indicated he would like to move directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not yet clear whether the White House will agree to this request. Regardless, the case will ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court.

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