A judge in Virginia on Monday invalidated a key part of the landmark healthcare law that requires individuals to buy health insurance, the first major setback for President Barack Obama on an issue that will likely end up at the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, backed arguments by the state of Virginia that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring that individuals buy health insurance or face a fine.
The decision is the first finding against the law that was passed in March and aimed at overhauling the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system. Judges in other states have rejected other challenges to the law.
Given the number of lawsuits brought, it was only a matter of time before the anti-Obamacare guys found their judge and their ruling. This was always going to end up in front of the Supreme Court anyway as I've been saying for months now.
Silver lining here is that the appeal process to get this case to the highest court in the land just got a swift kick in the ass. Full ruling is here (PDF).
"A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts expending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme. The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance -- or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage -- it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."
Funny. Under that logic a whole hell of a lot of federal laws and regulations just became unconstitutional. Still, it was expected. SCOTUS will have the final say.
And remember, the MECP was a Republican idea in the first place.
[UPDATE] Atrios thinks the ruling isn't totally without merit. In a vacuum, no. In practical application, this interpretation of the Commerce Clause is still as silly as it was back in March.
[UPDATE 2] John Cole FTW:
None of this really matters until Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia invent a way to overturn HCR without making a precedent that will hamper future Republican presidents.
[UPDATE 3] Adam Serwer points out just how Scalia will most likely do this.