Obamacare has suffered a devastating blow. On Friday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation is unconstitutional. With its ruling, the court affirmed the principle that the Constitution means what it says—Congress does not have unfettered power to force the American people to comply with any and all dictates it creates.
The federal government’s argument in favor of Obamacare’s individual mandate, in contrast, is without limit—and it’s a position that the court strongly rejected:
The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power….
The federal government’s assertion of power, under the Commerce Clause, to issue an economic mandate for Americans to purchase insurance from a private company for the entire duration of their lives is unprecedented, lacks cognizable limits, and imperils our federalist structure.
The Obama Administration wasted no time in decrying the ruling, reasserting its argument that the individual mandate is constitutional—cleverly calling it an “individual responsibility” provision and hanging its hat on an earlier decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the law. But the significance of last week’s opinion cannot be easily undone with clever wordsmithing, spin—or claims of partisanship, given that one of the authors of the ruling, Judge Frank Hull, was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
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