The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," unconstitutionally imposes a requirement that everyone carry health insurance or be taxed for not doing so, has placed the law on legal life support. Ultimately it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to either pull the plug on this unaffordable monstrosity, or uphold it and put taxpayers in the equivalent of a persistent vegetative economic state.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed the lawsuit challenging the law’s “individual mandate” provision that requires all citizens to buy health insurance or, beginning in 2014, pay a penalty. More than 20 states have similar lawsuits pending. Cuccinelli said in a news conference in Richmond, Va., that the individual mandate is the “common thread” running through all of the legal challenges. He is asking that the Supreme Court take the case immediately under its “Rule 11,” which states that a case must be “of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.”
Cuccinelli believes the case meets that test. So does Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, who quickly asked the Department of Justice for an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court. Given Attorney General Eric Holder’s glacial approach to trying terrorists and opposition to the ruling by the White House, don’t expect Holder to move with any great alacrity on ACA.
Judge Hudson is the first judge to strike down the law. Other judges in Virginia and Michigan have upheld it. Cuccinelli says the next state challenge to be ruled on is Florida, which may come soon.
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Even if the Supreme Court agrees with Judge Hudson and strikes down the law, few will notice any effect, as its major provisions, including the individual mandate, won’t take effect for three years. That leaves plenty of time for newly-empowered Republicans to draft legislation that reflects the type of health care reform they have proposed; one based more on the free market and individual choice, not top-down government mandates. President Obama is likely to veto such a Republican plan, but congressional and presidential candidates in 2012 could make the issue central to their campaigns. Public opinion has swung against Obamacare, as more people come to understand what’s in the law and its negative consequences.
In a statement shortly after the ruling, Rep. Steve King, R-IA, got to the heart of what bothers most opponents of ACA: “Obamacare’s ‘individual mandate’ always rested on the absurd premise that the Commerce Clause empowered the federal government to regulate Americans’ decisions not to engage in commercial activity. Adoption of such an argument would have vested the federal government with the power to regulate virtually every aspect of Americans’ lives ...”
King is correct. If the federal government can get away with ordering individuals to buy health insurance based on interstate commerce laws, it could order us to submit to any other practice it deems for our good based on similar misinterpretations of the Constitution. Such a course would further erode our liberties and move us closer to dictatorship and away from principles the Constitution was written to protect.
Should Judge Hudson’s ruling be upheld on appeal, a significant corner will have been turned in the left’s march toward a socialist state. Polls, as reflected in last month’s election, show that a majority of the public has grown tired of ceding too much power to government, no matter which party runs it. Growing numbers of us have awakened to the misappropriation of funds we taxpayers have given Washington. It is time not only to stop them, but to begin reversing the process with legislative sunset laws, periodic reauthorization of all government programs and agencies, a reform of the tax code and lower tax rates that will return power to the people where it belongs and where the Founders intended it to remain.
Cal Thomas, a columnist for Tribune Media Services, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.