Donald Lambro

The federal appeals court ruling that struck down the centerpiece of Obamacare has dealt a massive, possibly fatal, blow to the government-imposed health care system passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress over bitter public opposition.

The decision earlier this month by a divided, three-member panel in the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, with the support of a judge named by President Clinton, condemned a central provision that will force uninsured Americans to buy health insurance or else face financial punishment.

The court said the mandate was an unconstitutional extension of government's excessive regulation of interstate commerce -- in this case, requiring people to purchase a private commercial product they may not need, want, or be able to afford.

The judges called the legislation President Obama proposed and signed into law March 22, 2010, "breathtaking in its expansive scope." And they didn't mean that as a compliment.

The national news media routinely, perhaps grudgingly, reported the court's decision, but in the days that followed seemed to dismiss the ruling as a one-day story with few lasting repercussions.

But the law, after all, was the authoritarian core of the president's social and economic agenda, one that he spent more than a year battling on Capitol Hill against a furious groundswell of grass-roots opposition that gave birth to the tea party revolution and sharply eroded his support among independents and senior citizens who feared the costly reforms would come at the expense of Medicare benefits.

The court didn't mince words, characterizing the new law's sweeping mandate as an unprecedented and dangerous assault on the fundamental rights and liberties of American citizens. That's why its criticisms deserve more attention than they have been given thus far. Like this one:

"This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives," the court ruled in its 2-1 decision.

The court said that if Congress can force Americans to buy, under penalty of law, health insurance plans under the guise of the Constitution's Commerce Clause, then they can compel us to purchase almost anything.

The appellate court said that if we let Congress to get away with this, then "there is no reason why Congress could not similarly compel Americans to insure against any number of unforeseeable but serious risks."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.