The court in a 2-1 ruling (and in an opinion written by a Clinton appointee) declared the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional because it sets no limits to Congress’ reach:
“Ultimately, the government’s struggle to articulate cognizable, judicially administrable limiting principles only reiterates the conclusion we reach today: there are none,” the court wrote.
The government had tried to make a series of fact-based arguments for why health care is unique, but that failed to sway the court, concluding that future Congresses could make all sorts of arguments as to why any given “unique.”
“Presumably, a future Congress similarly would be able to articulate a unique problem requiring a legislative fix that entailed compelling Americans to purchase a certain product from a private company,” the opinion reads. “The government apparently seeks to set the terms of the limiting principles courts should apply, and then asks that we defer to Congress’s judgment about whether those conditions have been met.”
The judges write that, “The government’s five factual elements of ‘uniqueness,’ proposed as constitutional limiting principles, are nowhere to be found in Supreme Court precedent. Rather, they are ad hoc, devoid of constitutional substance, incapable of judicial administration—and, consequently, illusory. The government’s fact- based criteria would lead to expansive involvement by the courts in congressional legislation, requiring us to sit in judgment over when the situation is serious enough to justify an economic mandate.”
Later on, the court reiterates that: “We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers. ‘Uniqueness’ is not a constitutional principle in any antecedent Supreme Court decision.”
And the judges add that “the difficulties posed by the insurance market and health care cannot justify extra-constitutional legislation.”
Though the district judge whose case was under appeal here had voided the whole of ObamaCare, in his article, Philip Klein points out that the majority struck down only the individual mandate and left the rest of the structure intact. Klein speculates that this actually works in favor of the opposition, because, by constructing their decision narrowly and relying on a lack of Supreme Court precedents upholding the government’s argument, this may —may— be persuasive to moderate Justice Kennedy, since it frames leaving the mandate in place as the more radical decision.
And if the individual mandate is struck down, the rest of the act becomes untenable and vulnerable to repeal.
Regardless, we are almost now guaranteed a showdown in the Supreme Court, probably just as the 2012 election campaign hits high gear, since the 11th Circuit’s decision contradicts that of the 6th Circuit, which upheld the law. In situations like that, the Court almost always intervenes. Stay tuned…
Meanwhile, this is great news for fans of individual liberty, limited government, federalism, and a health-care policy that doesn’t amount to national economic suicide.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)