A federal judge in Virginia today ruled the linchpin provision of Obamacare unconstitutional, asserting that the federal government is not permitted to force citizens to buy a product – in this case health insurance.
Without the requirement that all add funds to the system by purchasing insurance, various costly requirements on insurance companies – like the mandate to insure all comers existing conditions – that were expected to be offset by the new business fall by the wayside.
The ruling was by Judge Henry E. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, in response to a lawsuit lodged by Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinnelli II. Two other federal judges have ruled favorably on the law. So while today’s action may seem like little more than Republicans preaching to each others’ choirs, the decision will have several practical effects.
For one, it adds steam and a sense of legitimacy to GOP efforts to undue the law. And it adds power to arguments against the law as the cases make their way inevitably to the Supreme Court. If all judges had ruled in favor of Obamacare, it would make it that much more difficult for the High Court to weigh in against it.
Cucinnelli wants the White House to agree to try to bypass the next level of review and go right to the Supreme Court. They won’t, because waiting won’t effect anything, since the purchasing requirement doesn’t begin until 2014.
For better or worse, Obama will have to run on health reform in 2012. If the law is invalidated, he will run on basically nothing. And why not wait as long as possible for the Supreme Court to consider this, in case one of the Republicans Justices drops dead?