Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dear America, You're Welcome. Sincerely, Florida

In case you were locked in the trunk of a car yesterday, Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that Obamacare is a big ol' pile of unconstitutional mess.

The Court ruled that the part of the bill that mandates that individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, because it is beyond the scope of Congress' regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause.  Basically, because the individual mandate applied even if you did not do anything other than continue to breathe, you were not "engaging in commerce," and Congress overstepped their bounds.  Contrary to what many Democrats seem to argue, the power of the federal government is not without limit...and the Constitution is that limit.

The Democrats responsible for this monstrosity of a bill got smacked in the face by two of their own decisions.  First, the bill did not have what's called a "severability clause," or language that provides that if any part of the legislation is found unconstitutional or otherwise unenforceable, that the rest of the bill would still have legal effect.  Ironically, the original version of the bill did include a severability clause.  If you remember back to when the Democrats passed this bill (again, without a single Republican vote), they had to engage in serious negotiations to buy, I mean obtain, the votes they needed (see, e.g., Cornhusker Kickback, etc.).  The negotiations were so tight that no one was willing to risk any of the provisions for which they had so carefully bargained, so the severability clause was deleted.

Without a severability clause, if one part of a bill is killed, especially a part as major as the individual mandate is for the health care bill, the whole entire bill must die with it.

(Keep reading after the jump, including link to view the Court's entire opinion and video interviews of Pam Bondi and Bill McCollum.)

Second, the sheer labyrinthine complexity of the bill meant that even if the Court had found some way to imply a severability clause, the provisions creating the individual mandate were so intertwined and involved with so many other sections, there was no way for the Court to "unwind" this section from the rest of the bill.  A long-standing legal principle is that the law will not operate to create an impossibility.  Here, where the individual mandate was a major pillar of the ObamaCare plan, and provided the necessary financial foundation for the bill, removing that section meant that the bill would be impossible to carry out.

For an excellent analysis of the legal opinion and what it means, please check out Professor William Jacobson's blog:

To read the opinion in its entirety:

Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi interview with On the Record with Greta Van Susteren discussing the ruling:

YouTube | FoxNewsChannel | Key Victory for States Against 'Obamacare' Part 1

And then Greta's follow up interview with former AG Bill McCollum, who initially filed the lawsuit against Obamacare (now joined by, ahem, 26 states):

YouTube | FoxNewsChannel | Key Victory for States Against 'Obamacare' Part 2

We all know this is going to get appealed back and forth for awhile and is destined to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The important thing to remember is that appeals are not retrials from scratch.  The legal issues and facts that the appellate courts are limited, by law.  Yesterday's extraordinarily favorable opinion is the foundation from which any appeals must launch.

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