This has been a busy week when it comes to legal challenges to the national health care law. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the law’s requirement to purchase health insurance was unconstitional in a suit brought by Virgina. And on Thursday, another district court judge, Roger Vinson, heard oral arguments in a separate case against the individual mandate launched by Florida and 19 other states.
While a judge’s posture in oral arguments isn’t an ironclad indication of how he intends to vote, several news accounts of the hearing suggested Vinson — a Ronald Reagan appointee — was extremely skeptical of the Obama administration’s argument that the Commerce Clause gave the federal government the authority to regulate inactivity.
“It would be a giant leap for the Supreme Court to say that a decision to buy or not to buy is tantamount to activity,” Vinson said, according to the Wall Street Journal. The judge noted that when he was in law school he was uninsured when his first son was born and paid out of pocket.
Vinson called the mandate a “giant expansion” of federal regulatory power, the New York Times reported, saying, “People have always exercised the freedom to choose whether to buy or not buy a commercial product.”
There was even some suggestion that Vinson could go a step further in his ruling than the decision earlier this week. Hudson rejected Virginia’s call to strike down the entire health care law if the mandate is deemed unconstitutional, but according to both accounts, Vinson seemed more sympathetic to striking down the whole law, arguing that its elements were interconnected, like a clock that stops working if one part isn’t functioning properly. “It’s also been compared to a Rube Goldberg invention,” the Times quoted him as saying.
For opponents of ObamaCare, clearly the more rulings against the mandate — and the more chances to win at the appellate level — the better.