Florida Judge Strikes Down Obamacare, Amicus Author CEI Praises Decision

Washington, D.C., January 31, 2011 — A federal judge in Florida today struck down Obamacare, the president’s signature health care take-over. CEI, which had filed an amicus brief opposing the law on behalf of two governors, Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) and Donald Carcieri (R-R.I.), called the case a major win for individual rights.

In today’s ruling, the Judge declared the entire health care law unconstitutional because, as he noted, the individual mandate was not severable from the rest of the law.  In his severability ruling, the judge relied upon a Supreme Court decision last June, in a case brought by CEI (Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB).

Statement by Hans Bader, CEI Legal Counsel

Judge Vinson rightly declared the healthcare law’s individual mandate unconstitutional, since the inactivity of not buying health insurance is not an “economic activity” that Congress has the power to regulate under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

He also rightly declared the law as a whole unconstitutional. The health care law lacks a severability clause. So if a major provision like the individual mandate is unconstitutional – as it indeed was – then the whole law must be struck down.

The absence of a severability clause meant that, at a minimum, the burden of proof shifted to the government to show (among other things) that the law would have passed even without the individual-mandate provision that the court has just ruled unconstitutional. The government could not, and did not, meet that burden of proof, given the incredibly narrow margin by which the health care law passed in the House, and the fact that it circumvented a filibuster with no votes to spare in the Senate.

As I noted earlier in The Washington Examiner, “To justify preserving the rest of the law, the judge” in the earlier Virginia case “cited a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of a law — but kept the rest of it in force. But that case involved a law passed almost unanimously by Congress, which would have passed it even without the challenged provision. Obamacare is totally different. It was barely passed by a divided Congress, but only as a package. Supporters admitted that the unconstitutional part of it — the insurance mandate — was the law’s heart. Obamacare’s legion of special-interest giveaways that are ‘extraneous to health care’ does not alter that.” In short, Obamacare’s individual mandate is not “volitionally severable,” as case law requires.

Read the Court’s Decision

Read CEI’s amicus brief in the case