UPDATED: Florida Fed Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional, In Toto

More as it develops.

UPDATE #13: Below in Update #11, we noted that Judge Vinson was a bit optimistic/naive in suggesting he didn’t need to issue an injunction against implementation of Obamacare because federal officials – as party to the lawsuit – would be bound by a declaratory judgement. We noted that last year in the Hornbeck Offshore case, the feds gave Judge Martin Feldman the middle-finger salute after he struck the offshore oil drilling moratorium down as unconstitutional.

We figured the administration would do something similar to Vinson. We didn’t expect it to happen tonight, but it did. Via Patterico and the Daily Caller

“We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter in a blog post published at WhiteHouse.gov.

Senior administration officials vowed implementation of the law would “proceed apace.”

In other words, the administration saw 26 states take them to court, got clobbered by said 26 states, and told them to stick it up their asses.

Meanwhile, all 47 Republican Senators have co-sponsored S. 192, the Senate bill to repeal Obamacare. That means it has 47 votes, and they need four Democrats to pass it (assuming the Democrats don’t filibuster it or Harry Reid stops it from getting to the floor, which several Republicans vow would be a grave mistake). While nobody is predicting they’ll get there, with the 2012 elections looming in the not-so-distant future there are a number of Democrats who will soon rue the day they voted against repeal – among them Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jim Webb of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Obamacare is generally regarded to suck canal water in each of the states those senators represent – Missouri had over 70 percent of its voters pass a measure fighting the law in October – and a vote against repeal might seal the fate of each when they’re up for re-election.

The Democrats figured they’d just pass this bill and people would get over it. How off the mark can you get?

UPDATE #12: Let’s simplify this a little…

UPDATE #11: Two things – in Update #3, below, we said that the unfunded mandate challenge the states put forth was thrown out as unconstitutional. That’s not right; Vinson didn’t agree with the states’ case on that one. He did offer some very friendly rhetoric to the states in assessing the lousy options Obamacare leaves them…

They must either (1) accept the Act’s transformed Medicaid program with its new costs and obligations, which they cannot afford, or (2) exit the program altogether and lose the federal matching funds that arenecessary and essential to provide health care coverage to their neediest citizens (along with other Medicaid-linked federal funds).

Ultimately he didn’t throw the law out on that basis, though, because he said since the states could still choose to exit the program.

But Vinson didn’t issue an injunction against enforcement of Obamacare, and this is where things get interesting…

Injunctive relief is an “extraordinary”. . . and “drastic” remedy. It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for there is a long-standing presumption “that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” . . . (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . .since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”) (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added).There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief isnot necessary.

Emphasis mine.

In other words, Vinson is taking it on faith that the administration is going to abide by his ruling and cease all attempts at implementation. And that’s where this gets very interesting, because the Obama administration certainly didn’t abide by a district court ruling in the Hornbeck Offshore case, in which its moratorium on offshore oil drilling was thrown out.

The question is whether Obamacare is different from the Obamoratorium. The latter was an executive order rather than a piece of legislation, so it’s probably more difficult to just trot out a flunky to announce you’re going to implement Obamacare 2.0 the way Obama’s Interior Secretary announced a second moratorium. On the other hand, the evidence of this administration’s extralegal activity is almost endless – and Obamacare is his signature achievement as president. It seems more than a little naive of Vinson to assume they’re going to sit still while waiting for the case to travel up the appellate ladder.

Then again, he could always find the administraton in contempt – which would show the kind of brass that would make him famous beyond measure. Nobody expects that.

We’ll get a motion to stay Vinson’s judgement, probably tomorrow. And it will be stayed, either by the 11th circuit or the Supremes. That would likely make an injunction moot, and it’s not unreasonable to think Vinson figures that would happen anyway. Still, the image of the judge assuming the administration who’s given us Government Motors, the runaway EPA and Net Neutrality by fiat will just go in peace is an interesting one.

UPDATE #10: And now Rep. Bill Cassidy weighs in:

“Mandating that citizens purchase a particular health insurance as the cost of citizenship is inconsistent with Americans’ belief in limited government and individual liberty.  It has also been ruled unconstitutional by federal judges in Virginia and Florida.  If the Supreme Court agrees, we can implement real health reform that preserves liberty and lowers costs by empowering patients.”

UPDATE #9: A couple of other reactions. First, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:

“The federal court’s ruling today on our case against the unconstitutional mandates in ObamaCare is an important win for American freedoms and the principles of federalism that our country was founded on. The requirement in ObamaCare that all American citizens purchase health insurance is fundamentally an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. We must fight for the fact that the federal government can’t force Americans to buy a certain product as a requirement of being an American. If the federal government can tell us all to buy one product, what can’t they do? Who knows what product it will be tomorrow or where their power would ever stop.

“Very importantly, the court also ruled today that the individual mandate language in ObamaCare cannot be separated from the rest of the legislation. This means that the entire Act is invalid because it is so dependent on the individual mandate portion that was ruled unconstitutional. We hope to see swift action from the federal government to abide by the court’s ruling and put an end to ObamaCare – the largest unfunded federal mandate in history that would cost our state billions in state funds to implement. Instead, the federal government should move forward in creating true, bipartisan health care reforms that help people afford access to high quality health care and also help states provide health care services for their people, without penalizing, taxing and bankrupting us with more bureaucracy and unconstitutional mandates.”

And Rep. Steve Scalise:

“Today’s ruling affirms our vote earlier this month to repeal President Obama’s health care law and replace it with real reforms that lower costs and fix the problems in health care without the unconstitutional mandates and job-killing taxes in their bill,” Scalise said.  ” Today’s decision is a resounding victory for the American people and reaffirms the principles set forth in the Constitution by our founding fathers.  Judge Vinson’s ruling reinforces what we said following the Virginia case and what many of us have said from the beginning, that President Obama’s health care law was unconstitutional. It is welcomed news that the federal court agrees with us in this critical ruling.  President Obama needs to acknowledge this decision and come back to the table as we work to repeal his bill and replace it with real solutions to the problems facing American families in health care.”

UPDATE #8: More reaction, this time from Rep. Rodney Alexander:

“This is the second time a federal court has ruled that the mandated purchase of health insurance, the very heart of the health care law, is overreaching congressional boundaries. Along with the majority of the American people, I opposed this massive intrusion into our private health system. This law undermines the patient-physician relationship; it empowers the federal government with even greater authority through new physician, employer and benefit mandates; and from a financial standpoint, it is simply unsustainable. Today’s ruling is another confirmation that we must put an end to the harmful provisions of this law.”

UPDATE #7: Rep. Charles Boustany reacts:

I applaud this ruling. Once again, a federal judge has recognized this law is unconstitutional, and I hope the Supreme Court will quickly uphold this decision. The American people deserve real solutions that bring down the cost of healthcare, and improve quality and access. As a physician on the Ways and Means Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to bring about meaningful health care reform.

UPDATE #6: Judge Vinson did NOT issue an injunction against the implementation of Obamacare. The reasoning behind it, courtesy of William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection

Judge Vinson found that there was no need for an injunction, since the declaratory judgment that the entire law was invalid was sufficient.  In effect, there is nothing left to enjoin, since no part of the law survived.  By contrast, in the ruling in Virginia last year invalidating the mandate, the Judge severed the mandate from the rest of the law (but denied an injunction preventing the rest of the law from taking effect).

In this sense, this decision is far more sweeping than the Virginia case, and presents a greater problem for the Obama administration which arguably does not have authority to implement any aspect of Obamacare.

UPDATE #5: Rep. John Fleming reacts:

“Today’s ruling marks another major milestone in the fight to end ObamaCare. It is also a significant victory for the majority of Americans who firmly opposed this unconstitutional government takeover of health care. While this ruling is a step in the right direction, we must continue to remain vigilant as the process moves forward.  House Republicans stood with the American people when we repealed ObamaCare, and will continue in the fight to defund this monstrosity and replace it with market-based patient-centered solutions.”

UPDATE #4: A juicy bit of Judge Vinson’s reasoning – applying Obamacare logic to the mortgage market. He makes a good point…

Or what if two of the purported “unique” factors [of the health-care market] — inevitable participation coupled with cost-shifting — are present? For example, virtually no one can opt out of the housing market (broadly defined) and a majority of people will at some point buy a home. The vast majority of those homes will be financed with a mortgage, a large number of which (particularly in difficult economic times, as we have seen most recently) will go into default, thereby cost-shifting billions of dollars to third parties and the federal government. Should Congress thus have power under the Commerce Clause to preemptively regulate and require individuals above a certain income level to purchase a home financed with a mortgage (and secured with mortgage guaranty insurance) in order to add stability to the housing and financial markets (and to guard against the possibility of future cost-shifting because of a defaulted mortgage), on the theory that most everyone is currently, or inevitably one day will be, active in the housing market?

via Hot Air.

UPDATE #3: Another part of this, apparently, is that the judge found the unfunded-mandate part of this where Medicaid is concerned to be unconstitutional. There’s no opt-out provision in it, and that bounces the plan. So that’s at least two fronts for the two sides to battle it out at the circuit court level.

UPDATE #2: Sen. Vitter reacts:

“This ruling, coupled with the prior court decision in Virginia, is further confirmation of what I and so many others have been saying all along about Obamacare: that it’s an unconstitutional overreach by the federal government that infringes on the rights of Louisianians and their doctors to make their own health care decisions,” said Vitter.  “As this case makes its way toward the Supreme Court, I’ll continue working in the Senate to defund and dismantle Obamacare while pushing my own bill to repeal it outright.”

UPDATE: In case you’re keeping score, this is the 26-state suit led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. It was originally filed by her predecessor, Bill McCollom. Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell did join in the suit.

A PDF of the decision can be found here.

An excerpt…

In the final analysis, this Act has been analogized to a finely crafted watch, and that seems to fit. It has approximately 450 separate pieces, but one essential piece (the individual mandate) is defective and must be removed. It cannot function as originally designed. There are simply too many moving parts in the Act and too many provisions dependent (directly and indirectly) on the individual mandate and other health insurance provisions — which, as noted, were the chief engines that drove the entire legislative effort — for me to try and dissect out the proper from the improper, and the able-to-stand-alone from the unable-to-stand-alone. Such a quasi-legislative undertaking would be particularly inappropriate in light of the fact that any statute that might conceivably be left over after this analysis is complete would plainly not serve Congress’ main purpose and primary objective in passing the Act. The statute is, after all, called “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” not “The Abstinence Education and Bone Marrow Density Testing Act.” The Act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker.

And the coup de grace…

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”

The judge in this case, Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (based in Pensacola), actually went further than Judge Henry Hudson did in Virginia. Hudson wouldn’t get into the severability question. Vinson did, and in doing so he wiped out the entire kit and kaboodle.

Next up for this suit is a trip to Atlanta for the circuit court.

Ultimately, this will be a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court, with Anthony Kennedy holding the whole thing in his hands.



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