Judge Rejects Obama Administration’s Motion to Dismiss Challenge to Obamacare

A judge in Florida has rejected the Obama administration’s motion to dismiss challenges to Obamacare brought by 20 state attorneys general and the National Federation of Independent Business. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson found that the attorneys general had made a plausible argument that Obamacare is in excess of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and in violation of the Tenth Amendment — indeed, he said it wasn’t even “a close call.”

The judge gave a green light to a challenge to Obamacare’s requirement that all citizens buy federally-regulated health insurance — the so-called “individual mandate.”  “While the novel and unprecedented nature of the individual mandate does not automatically render it unconstitutional,” Judge Vinson observed, “there is perhaps a presumption that it is.”  This means at the very least that “the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action.”

The judge also allowed the state attorney generals to challenge Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion provisions under the Tenth Amendment.

We earlier explained why the individual mandate contained in Obamacare is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. We joined an amicus brief filed by the Cato Institute supporting Virginia’s challenge in a case pending in Richmond, which you can find here. The judge in the Virginia case also rejected the federal government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  Three former U.S. attorneys general, William Barr, Ed Meese, and Dick Thornburgh, also filed a brief challenging Obamacare in that case.

Briefs in many constitutional challenges to Obamacare can be found at this website.

At the ACA Litigation Blog, Brad Joondeph summarizes the Florida judge’s ruling, noting:

After laying out the competing arguments as to whether [the individual mandate, contained in Section 1501(b) of Obamacare,] is within Congress’s commerce power, he states as follows: ‘At this stage in the litigation, this is not even a close call.’ Judge Vinson goes on to explain that the individual mandate is ‘simply without prior precedent’ (p.61), and that, unlike statutes upheld by the Supreme Court in prior Commerce Clause decisions cited by the federal government (such as Heart of Atlanta Motel and Wickard), this regulation ‘is not based on an activity that [people] make the choice to undertake’ (p.63). In other words, Judge Vinson sees this as a regulation of inactivity, and thus one that is qualitatively different from prior uses of the commerce power (as augmented by the Necessary and Proper Clause). Moreover, he finds it highly salient that those regulated by 1501 (that is, all legal residents) have not taken some sort of voluntary action (such as entering the motel business, or growing wheat, for example) before being subjected to the provision’s requirement. Seeing the minimum coverage requirement in these terms, I think, is probably going about 75 percent of the way towards finding it unconstitutional. Mind you, Judge Vinson concludes by stating that he is holding only that the states have ‘stated a plausible claim.’ (p. 64). But the reasoning behind his conclusion–not to mention the modifier ‘most definitely’ that precedes it–gives one the sense that, following the coming motions for summary judgment, the odds are in favor of the court declaring the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional.