Florida judge rules against health care plan

Miami Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauJanuary 31, 2011 

TALLAHASSEE - U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled Monday afternoon that the federal health care legislation is unconstitutional.

Vinson made the decision after hearing arguments in December in the case, which pits 26 states against the federal government.

Among other things the states, led by Florida, argue that the legislation passed by Congress in March and pushed by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional because it requires people to buy health care or pay a fine, a provision known as the "individual mandate."

Vinson agreed.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate," Vinson wrote in his 78-page ruling. "‘Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."

The case likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his opinion, Vinson said that everyone recognizes the nation's health care system needs reform, and that Congress has the power to do that.

"The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here," he wrote. "Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution."

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed the lawsuit in March, and current Attorney General Pam Bondi is carrying it forward.

"Today’s ruling by Judge Vinson is an important victory for every person who believes in the freedoms granted to us by our Constitution," said Bondi in a statement. "This proves that the federal government requiring Americans to purchase health insurance is in fact unconstitutional."

"In addition, the bipartisan effort from Attorneys General across the country shows the federal government that we will not back down from protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens," she added.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, an outspoken opponent of the health care law, applauded Vinson's ruling.

"The judge has confirmed what many of us knew from the start: ObamaCare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people," he said in a prepared statement. "Patients should have more control over health care decisions than a federal government that is spending money faster than it can be printed."

In criticizing the judge's ruling, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux released the following statement:

"Today’s decision is not only wrong for Florida’s seniors, children and small business owners who are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, but this latest example of conservative judicial activism wrongly interprets the Constitution.

"As several other judges around the country have ruled in similar challenges to the needed health care reforms passed by Congress last year, the Affordable Care Act falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause."

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