BREAKING: Obamacare Dealt Major Legal Blow As Federal Judge Tosses Out Individual Mandate

Posted: Dec 13, 2010 12:14 PM
This titanic bulletin comes from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, via Twitter:

@KenCuccinelli: HC ruling is in. Va won this round.

CNN has more:

Breaking -- Federal judge in Richmond rules individual mandate provision of health care law is unconstitutional. Ruling on Virginia lawsuit.

Stay tuned for updates to this major breaking story.

UPDATE: In his ruling, US District Court Judge Henry Hudson writes that the individual mandate -- the linchpin of the entire law -- "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power."  He says the mandate "exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I," and rejects the right of Congress to use the Commerce Clause "to compel individuals to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce."  Hudson is a George W. Bush appointee.

The American Spectator's healthcare guru extraordinaire, Philip Klein, is tweeting excerpts of Judge Hudson's decision.  Follow him.

UPDATE II: As Cuccinelli's statement indicates, this victory is merely round one of what is sure to be a lengthy legal battle.  Due to Democrats' accidental failure to include a legal severability clause in their hastily-passed monstrosity of a bill, the demise of the individual mandate could doom the overall law as it exists.  Mary Katharine Ham reminds us that even the White House has conceded this point on severability.  Judge Hudson did, however, sever the mandate and its "directly-dependent provisions" from the rest of the law in his ruling.  Hudson acknowledges: "The final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court."  Virginia is denied injunctive relief against the law because the individual mandate has not yet taken effect (this is scheduled for 2014).

UPDATE III: The full decision can be accessed in PDF format HERE.

:  Conservatives, unsurprisingly, are clamoring to applaud the decision.  As an example, here's a fresh statement from one of the most principled and thoughtful conservatives in the House, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ):

“The ruling today in Virginia confirmed what I’ve been saying since the beginning – the federal health care law isn’t just bad public policy, it’s unconstitutional.  The individual mandate represents an unprecedented power-grab by the federal government that undermines the vision our founding fathers had for this country.  While I believe the Supreme Court will ultimately find the health care law unconstitutional, I’m prepared to move aggressively in the 112th Congress to ensure passage of legislation to repeal the individual mandate and end this debate once and for all.”

:  More Hudson: "The Minimum Essential Coverage provision is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution."  In rejecting the Obama administration's taxing power justification, Hudson writes:

This Court is unpersuaded that section 1501(b)(1) is a bona fide revenue raising measure enacted under the taxing power of Congress...No plausible argument can be made that it has 'the purpose of supporting the government.'"
UPDATE VI:  Cuccinelli will hold a press conference to discuss the court's decision at 2pm ET.

UPDATE VII:  Summaries of Judge Hudson's ruling are pouring in.  Here's the aforementioned Philip Klein's rundown.  Constitutional attorney and talk show host Mark Levin also weighs in:

Today Federal District Judge Henry Hudson ruled against the Obama Administration on three essential points involving Obamacare:

1. Individuals who do not actively participate in commerce -- that is, who do not voluntarily purchase health insurance --  cannot be said to be participating in commerce under the United States Constitution's Commerce Clause, and there is no Supreme Court precedent providing otherwise;

2. The Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution cannot be used as a backdoor means to enforce a statute that is not otherwise constitutional under Congress's enumerated powers;

3. There is a difference between a tax and a penalty, there is much Supreme Court precedent in this regard, and the penalty provision in Obamacare is not a tax but a penalty and, therefore, is unconstitutional for it is applied to individuals who choose not to purchase health care.

Levin: "It is a great day for the rule of law and the citizenry.  Judge Hudson's ruling is ironclad, and General Cuccinelli deserves an enormous amount of credit for taking on this mater.  We look forward to continuing to work with him."

UPDATE VIII (1:30pm ET):  Watch live coverage of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs' reaction to today's ruling HERE.  In a new statement, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor calls on President Obama and AG Eric Holder to request this decision be expeditiously referred directly to the US Supreme Court, and promises a "clean repeal" of Obamacare when Republicans assume control of the House in January.

UPDATE: IX:  What timing!  ABC News publishes fresh polling data showing public support for Obamacare at an all-time low (43 percent favor/52 percent oppose).  Rasmussen's new numbers are even more gruesome for Democrats, with support for full or partial repeal of Obamacare spiking to 60 percent -- the highest level since September. 

:  Ken Cuccinelli's political operation blasted out this exultant email to supporters (Cuccinelli is holding a press conference as I type this):

Dear Defender of Liberty,

Today, a federal judge in Richmond ruled the individual mandate of the federal health care law UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

In other words - we won!

This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution.

I am still fully digesting the court's ruling, so I'll get back to you again later with more details, but I wanted you to hear the good news right away.

Thank so many of you for your support to become the Attorney General of Virginia, and your support since then. Today is a day to celebrate those same first principles that our founding fathers articulated over 200 years ago. We are proud to defend their work and the same first principles today in the 21st century.

Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner's office sends along his reaction:

“Today’s decision is an encouraging sign for families and small business owners who have revolted against President Obama’s job-killing health care law and called for its repeal.  Instead of appealing this decision, the Obama Administration should work with Congress to repeal this job-killing health care law so we can replace it with reforms that lower costs and protect jobs.  This would be the easiest way to keep ObamaCare from costing our economy more jobs.  Republicans have made a pledge to America to repeal this job-killing health care law, and that’s what we’re going to do.

“The individual mandate at the heart of ObamaCare puts the federal government in the business of forcing you to buy health insurance and taxing you if you don’t.  This is unwise, unaffordable, and as we have argued all along, unconstitutional.  If Washington thinks it can get away with this kind of power grab, it will think it can do anything.  Cash-strapped states should carefully weigh the benefits of investing time and resources in ObamaCare’s implementation now that its central mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.”