Health Care Fight to be Waged in Court, Not in Congress
After Senate Democrats voted down a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new health care law will likely be decided by the U.S. court system.
Following on a campaign promise, House Republicans voted 245-189 on January 19 to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care. However, they failed to get the bill through the Democrat-controlled Senate Wednesday by a 47-51 vote.
Attention now turns to the federal court.
Florida Federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled Monday that the law was unconstitutional based on a provision called the individual mandate that will soon require all citizens to purchase health insurance.
In his decision, Judge Vinson said that the mandate was “not within the legal bounds of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” citing its unconstitutionality in his ruling against the law in its entirety.
However, in a small victory for the White House, a Mississippi federal judge on Thursday threw out a similar lawsuit filed by 10 individuals who cited the individual mandate as unconstitutional. It was thrown out on technicality, with the judge ruling that the individuals had no proof that the mandate would apply to them.
Thus far four federal judges who, like Congress, are split down party lines have ruled on the law. Two judges appointed by Republican presidents ruled it unconstitutional while the two judges appointed by Democratic presidents ruled it constitutional.
The differing decisions increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will hear the case.
In fact, the Obama administration has already filed an appeal of the Florida federal court ruling.
Similarly, the state of Virginia has appealed to the Supreme Court to fast track the case so a ruling can be made as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the case to continue through the federal appeals courts.
Both Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a legal battle that will likely be settled by the Supreme Court.
Like each previous federal court ruling, a Supreme Court appeal would hinge on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
If the Roberts Court decides to take on the case, a ruling on the bill would occur before the 2012 presidential election and likely hold political ramifications.
A ruling in Obama’s favor would be a major victory for Democrats, however a ruling against the law would turn health care reform into a major 2012 campaign issue.
Barack Obama is the only president in modern history to have successfully passed a major healthcare overhaul — other presidents, from Nixon to Clinton, failed to address the issue through legislation.