Obamacare suffered another legal setback when a Florida judge ruled that the president’s landmark healthcare reform law is unconstitutional and should be “declared void.”
But Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for Northern Florida fell short of stopping the law’s implementation immediately, as requested by plaintiff Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida.
Vinson ruled that the individual mandate contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would require most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014, is unconstitutional because it exceeds the federal government’s power to oversee interstate commerce (the “Commerce Clause”).
“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void,” Vinson wrote in a lengthy decision that liberally quoted James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist papers. “I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate.”
But Vinson denied a motion by plaintiff Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, to immediately halt implementation of the healthcare reform act. The individual mandate is slated to go into effect in 2014.
The ruling is similar to one made late last year by Virginia Judge Henry Hudson, which also ruled the mandate unconstitutional but denied a call for an injunction against the enactment. As with that ruling, an appeal by the U.S. Department of Justice of Vinson’s decision is likely.
That case, filed by former Florida attorney general Bill McCollum within hours of the bill’s signing last March, has been joined by the AGs or governors of 26 other states. In October, Vinson dismissed two of four counts while denying the Obama administration’s move to have the case tossed.
A Michigan judge dismissed another legal challenge in October of 2010.