(CN) – A Florida federal judge ruled Monday that a clause in President Barack Obama’s health care law requiring most Americans to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and cannot be struck out to preserve the rest of the act. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, is the second judge to find that the “individual mandate” section exceeds Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause.
“The defendants have asserted again and again that the individual mandate is absolutely ‘necessary’ and ‘essential’ for the act to operate as it was intended by Congress,” U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson wrote for the court in Pensacola, Fla. “I accept that it is. Nevertheless, the individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers.”
Last month U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, whom President George W. Bush appointed, also ruled that the section was unconstitutional, but he ruled that it could be struck out to preserve Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act.
Vinson’s 78-page ruling Monday states that a section-by-section consideration of the act should not be attempted.
“Severing the individual mandate from the act along with the other insurance reform provisions – and in the process reconfiguring an exceedingly lengthy and comprehensive legislative scheme – cannot be done consistent with the principles set out above,” Vinson wrote. “Going through the 2,700-page act line-by-line, invalidating dozens (or hundreds) of some sections while retaining dozens (or hundreds) of others, would not only take considerable time and extensive briefing, but it would, in the end, be tantamount to rewriting a statute in an attempt to salvage it, which is foreclosed.”
He added: “If Congress intends to implement health care reform – and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed – it should do a comprehensive examination of the act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not. It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts.”
Noting that the federal government must adhere to the orders of the court, Vinson quickly rejected the plaintiffs application for an injunction against the health care law. He also quickly dispensed with the argument against the act’s allegedly unconstitutional expansion of Medicare.
The case had been filed by 26 Republican attorney generals and governors, two private citizens and the National Federation of Independent Business. The Obama administration says Vinson’s ruling does not represent the mainstream.
“Twelve federal judges have already dismissed challenges to the constitutionality of the health reform law, and two judges – in the Eastern District of Michigan and Western District of Virginia – have upheld the law,” Assistant to the President Stephanie Cutter wrote in a White House blog post Monday.
She added that Hudson’s ruling last month was much more narrow in its consideration of the health reform law’s “individual responsibility” provision and called Vinson’s ruling “a plain case of judicial overreaching.
“We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts,” she wrote.