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Obama Health Care Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Mon December 13 2010 2:17 pm
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A federal judge declared the foundation of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, ruling that the government cannot require Americans to purchase insurance. The case is expected to end up at the Supreme Court. The health insurance coverage mandate is not scheduled to begin until 2014.

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement urging the White House to agree to expedite a final ruling by appealing directly to the Supreme Court without first stopping at an appeals court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down a key provision of the law, which had been upheld by fellow federal judges in Virginia and Michigan.

The Obama Administration proposed that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives it the power to require people to buy health insurance or face a penalty.

The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. Courts and commentators have tended to discuss each of these three areas of commerce as a separate power granted to Congress. It is common to see the Commerce Clause referred to as “the Foreign Commerce Clause”, “the Interstate Commerce Clause”, and “the Indian Commerce Clause”, each of which refers to a different application of the same sentence in the Constitution.

Dispute exists as to the range of powers granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause. As noted below, the clause is often paired with the Necessary and Proper Clause, the combination used to take a broad, expansive perspective of these powers. Many strict constructionists deny that this is the proper application of the Commerce Clause because it refers specifically to “the foregoing Powers”.

The Commerce Clause grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states,” but insurance contracts have not traditionally been considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise.

Extending the clause to include economic inactivity and force people to engage in a transaction with a private company has raised a lot of eyebrows.

Hudson sided with Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who argued the mandate overstepped the bounds of the Constitution. Hudson acknowledged his court will not be the last stop.

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