Author: Timothy Sandefur
Judge Roger Vinson of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida refused today to dismiss the challenge to Obamacare that’s been brought by a coalition of several states who allege that the law exceeds Congress’ constitutional authority and intrudes on state sovereignty. Judge Vinson dismissed the argument that the law violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. He refused to dismiss the state’s argument that the law “coerces” the states in certain ways, in violation of their sovereignty, but did dismiss the argument that the law coerces states in certain other ways. And he found that the individual mandate is not a tax, so that there’s no need to address whether it violates constitutional prohibitions against direct taxation.
Most importantly, Judge Vinson did not dismiss the argument that the individual mandate exceeds the Commerce Clause power:
The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive. As the nonpartisan CBO concluded sixteen years ago (when the individual mandate was considered, but not pursued during the 1994 national healthcare reform efforts): “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.” Of course, to say that something is “novel” and “unprecedented” does not necessarily mean that it is “unconstitutional” and “improper.” There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action.
We’ll have more as we digest the decision.
More at HealthCareLawsuits.org.
Update: This is the second federal court to refuse to dismiss the constitutional challenge. The first was the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which refused to dismiss Commonwealth v. Sibelius. You can read that decision here. Last week, a Michigan District Court judge did dismiss a challenge to Obamacare in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama. You can read that decision here.