February 5, 2011
Judge Vinson's Bittersweet ObamaCare RulingBy Monte Kuligowski
Ruling that the ObamaCare insurance mandate is unconstitutional is like saying that water is wet. Of course it's an unconstitutional abuse of federal power. If the feds can force people to buy health insurance, there is virtually no limit to the reach of federal meddling into the affairs of life.
In a sense, it's fortunate that the unmitigated arrogance of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi -- as witnessed in the health care "reform" debacle -- is pushing even postmodern constitutional jurisprudence to its very limits.
Two federal district court judges have concluded that ObamaCare is constitutional. In doing so, they wandered into the red-herring inquiry of whether not having a fully insured populace would affect the goals of central-control health care reform. If that's the question, then judges may also conclude that what federal subjects eat and how much they exercise are also areas within the reach of the federal reform scheme.
Judge C.R. Vinson's recent district court ruling was issued out of Florida in the consolidated case against ObamaCare brought by 26 states -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The media are reporting the ObamaCare court scorecard as two and two. But including the Virginia ruling, it's more accurate to say that 27 states have achieved the first round of victory over a misnomer: namely, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
While I applaud Judge Vinson for his ruling declaring the entire ObamaCare Act unconstitutional and "void," his opinion is nevertheless troubling. His ruling is an example of what is often wrong with conservative jurisprudence. The ruling is judicially analogous to old-school Republicans who feel compelled to repeat the liberal narratives whenever they see a microphone. What comes to mind is the spectacle of John McCain, et al., perpetually praising Obama for his "intelligence," "likeability," and most recently for having "learned" and "changed" during his two years in office.
In reaching his conclusion, Judge Vinson unnecessary repeats several liberal narratives. Vinson states:
In actuality, there is no universal agreement as to what the problems are or which solutions, if any, the feds should implement to make the systems better. Mr. Obama rode the media and pep-rally circuit for almost two years, reinforcing the narrative that the U.S. health care system is broken. In doing so, he demonized both health insurance companies and doctors. Obama had the audacity to accuse doctors of heinous greed, suggesting that under the current system, doctors may be performing unnecessary surgery for profit. The many narratives of the far left on health care have become the templates for not only the media, but, it appears, for the judiciary as well.
Judge Vinson could just as easily have stated that "widespread sentiment" exists that the United States has the best health care system in the world, and therefore "this case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation."
In the quote above, Vinson goes on to say that federal reform "is obviously a very difficult task." Not only is that statement irrelevant to the case, but it is also another ruse of the left. Many conservatives believe that Congress should operate merely within the limitations of the Commerce Clause and regulate health insurance commerce among the states (making all insurance available across state lines). That would not be an "obviously difficult task"; that task could be accomplished with ten pages of legislation (as opposed to three thousand), which would lower costs and improve the quality of care immediately.
In the quote below, the judge regrets that the mandate doesn't make the constitutional cut but clarifies that other than imposing a mandate, Congress practically has no limits:
If Congress exceeded the bounds of the Constitution, why is Vinson reluctant to strike the law down? "At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country," Vinson writes, "it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled 'The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.'" Wow. Is the act's (misleading) title so impressive that a judge must pay homage by "reluctantly" declaring the law unconstitutional?
Why not just strike down the law? And why does Vinson feel the need to give credence to the flawed idea that Congress may address the "inequities in our health care system" and "reform" the market?
In context, the Commerce Clause gives Congress authority only to regulate commerce among the several states -- i.e., make commerce uniform, fair, and regular among the states. Absolutely no authority exists within the Constitution for Congress to "overhaul" the health care systems of the states.
Regarding his decision to strike down the law because of the individual insurance mandate, Judge Vinson states that his "conclusion in this case is based on an application of the Commerce Clause law as it exists pursuant to the Supreme Court's current interpretation and definition. Only the Supreme Court (or a Constitutional amendment) can expand that."
The good judge just defined rule by judicial oligarchy. If the Supreme Court can "expand that," who needs a constitutional amendment? Do we even have a Constitution when only a few unelected elites may say exclusively what it means?
Judge Vinson's thought process is common among jurists of the day and supports the current unconstitutional rule of the U.S. Supreme Court. No matter how far-removed from the limits imposed by the actual Constitution its rulings may be, the Supreme Court effectively and routinely amends the Constitution by a decree of five.
Judge Vinson's ruling is being hailed as a victory for conservatives, and to a large degree, it is one. But until we get back to the place from which federal judges can say, "Only a Constitutional amendment can expand the limits imposed on the federal government," the long-term forecast is cloudy with a chance of federal tyranny.
Monte Kuligowski is an attorney whose work has been published in several law journals.