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Second Federal Judge Rules Against Healthcare Law

A second federal judge ruled on Monday January 31 that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a healthcare law that required Americans to obtain...
February 1, 2011

A second federal judge ruled on Monday January 31 that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a healthcare law that required Americans to obtain commercial insurance. In doing so, Judge Roger Vinson of the Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., declared the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) unconstitutional. The ruling by Judge Vinson evens the score at 2 to 2 in the lower courts, as conflicting opinions begin to work their way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the law's requirement that individuals purchase insurance exceeded the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. He wrote that the provision could not be rescued by an associated clause in Article I that gives Congress broad authority to make laws "necessary and proper" to carrying out its designated responsibilities. Judge Vinson rejected a second claim that the new law violated state sovereignty by requiring states to pay for a fractional share of the planned Medicaid expansion.

The plaintiffs in the case include governors and attorneys general from 26 states, all but one of them Republicans, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small companies. Officials from six states joined the lawsuit in January after shifts in party control brought by November's elections.

Judge Vinson was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. In December, Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., who was appointed by President George W. Bush, became the first to invalidate the insurance mandate. Two other federal judges named by President Bill Clinton have upheld the law. It is widely assumed that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to resolve the matter.

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