Healthcare: Now it’s 2 – 2 and on to SCOTUS

The ruling on Healthcare Reform in Florida makes it two for and two against.

This doesn’t have any practical effect at the moment – Judge Vinson has allowed the law to remain in effect during the appeals process.  This can will take a couple of years and the relevant parts of the law (e.g. – the individual mandate) won’t go into effect until 2014.  It does give the Republicans in Congress a little more rhetoric to play with, but they didn’t need much help.  It also can’t be all that unexpected.  Judge Vinson apparently telegraphed his decision when he refused to dismiss the case based on lack of standing for the States to file suit.  What it really means is that we can move on to awaiting for a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court.  Which really means waiting for Justice Anthony Kennedy to tell us whether or not the law is constitutional.

If there was any real accountability, we would be expecting a 4-4 or 5-3 decision because Justice Clarence Thomas would recuse himself.  Ginni Thomas, Justice Thomas’ wife, is an outspoken political operative who is publicly against healthcare reform.  She’s been paid to work against the law.  This creates a fairly massive conflict of interest for Justice Thomas.  Unfortunately, Justice Thomas has the final say when it comes to recusal and  no one actually believes that he is going to withdraw himself from any case.

The plaintiffs did a good job of guaranteeing that the ruling would go their way.  According to reports,  Pensacola is one of the most conservative cities in Florida and Judge Vinson was appointed by President Reagan.   The only bit of news here is that Judge Vinson ruled that the individual mandate can not be severed from the rest of the law.  Therefor, the entire law is void.  If the Supreme Court sees it his way, it’s the ball game.  Of course when we’re analyzing the Supreme Court’s ruling we will have a different Congress and maybe even a different President.  The only question at that point is whether we’re in for a sequel or a reboot of the 2009/2010 debate.

So.  Is Judge Vinson an “activist” judge?  They always seem to be activists when we don’t agree with their rulings.  I haven’t read this Judge’s history but the ruling does seem to imply that he take a “constructionist” view of the Constitution.  That generally means conservative.  Judge Vinson cited the States-Rights-est of all of our Founders, James Madison and the Tenth Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…are reserved to the States…) in his first two pages.  He also could  have been a little more subtle and not cited the Boston Tea Party as a reason for completely VOIDING the healthcare act.  It’s a safe bet to say he’s conservative.  He is also a Federal Judge doing what he is supposed to do –  interpreting and ruling on the laws passed by Congress.

Read the ruling here.

What we do know is Judge Vinson hasn’t done us a disservice*.  Neither did Judges who ruled for the law or the other Judge who struck it down.  They have done their jobs and helped to move the debate forward.  The longer the debate goes on, the more people will begin to understand and benefit from the law.  We were always coming to this.  We knew passing the law wasn’t going to be the end of the discussion and we knew that it would be left for the courts to decide.  It’s an imperfect system, but it works.

Since the current law was based largely on what Massachusetts passed under Mitt Romney, I wonder what this ruling will mean for the future of that state’s law.

*Democrats, mainly Senate Democrats did us a disservice.  When they couldn’t pass a bill before Senator Kennedy died.  Then again when they couldn’t get a Democrat elected in Massachusetts.  Finally, when they rammed a compromised and incomplete bill through the Senate and convinced the House to sign it.  They provided an opening for conservative judges to invalidate the bill.  The judges are simply using the opening.

Pic Via – photo credit: Ben Twingley/Pensacola News Journal/AP

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