Judge Holds Hearing on Biggest Lawsuit Against ObamaCare

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 17, 2010   |   12:05PM   |   Washington, DC

A federal judge held a hearing Thursday in the main case more than 20 states filed against the ObamaCare health care law that contains massive abortion funding.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson heard from attorneys general who told him the law is an unconstitutional expansion of the federal government’s powers and a request for him to issue a summary judgment ruling declaring ObamaCare unconstitutional and throwing out the law without a full trial.

The main argument, as is the case in other lawsuits states and other parties have filed against ObamaCare, is that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance (which could fund abortions) is unconstitutional because Congress only has the power to regulate commerce, not inactivity.

“The act would leave more constitutional damage in its wake than any other statute in our history,” David Rivkin, an attorney for the states, told Vinson.

President Barack Obama’s administration countered that Americans should not be allowed to opt out of ObamaCare because every American requires medical care. They also claim the states do not have standing to file a lawsuit against ObamaCare and want the lawsuit thrown out and the case dismissed.

Vinson said he would rule later but did not provide a timetable for a ruling that is expected no earlier than mid-January.

Any such ruling would follow on the heels of a victory for ObamaCare opponents in a separate case in Virginia where U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, earlier this week, became the first federal judge to strike down a portion of the law when he sided with Virginia in its lawsuit saying the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

Vinson issued a written ruling in October allowing the hearing he held on Thursday. Then, he said the court needs to issue a decision on the question of whether or not it is a violation of the Constitution to force Americans to purchase health care insurance and he appeared to be sympathetic to the states.

“At this stage in the litigation, this is not even a close call…But, in this case we are dealing with something very different. The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it,” he wrote. “Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake.”

“Of course, to say that something is “novel” and “unprecedented” does not necessarily mean that it is “unconstitutional” and “improper.” There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action,” he said.

But, during the hearing, Vinson questioned how the government could stop the massive health care changes that have already begun, but Rivkin told him the constitutional issues are more important. Still, he also questioned Obama administration attorneys about whether the government is reaching beyond its power by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.

“A lot of people, myself included for years, have no health insurance,” said Vinson, adding that some of those people don’t want it.

Vinson also questioned the requirement saying it would lead to requiring Americans to purchase other things government believes they should purchase.

That case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court and likely to be combined with the one in Florida and two others where federal judges have upheld the insurance requirement.

In another case, Michigan District Judge George Caram Steeh in Detroit ruled the mandate to get insurance by 2014 and the penalties states face for not implementing ObamaCare fully are legal.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is pro-life, is the lead state attorney general who filed the case that many other states latched onto this year.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington joined Florida in the lawsuit.