Monday, January 31, 2011

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Texas Wins Important Victory In Its Fight Against Obamacare

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement following U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling today that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and strikes down the entire law:

“This is a great day for liberty and the vitality of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution limits Congressional power, and in this case, Congress exceeded its power. As Judge Vinson’s decision made clear, Congress cannot regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause, and therefore exceeded its Constitutionally-set boundaries by requiring all Americans – against their will – to buy government-approved health insurance.

Media links

View Video of News Conference
Federal court order granting summary judgment
Federal court's final summary declaratory judgment

“Judge Vinson also declared that ‘because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.’ This is an important step to the path of reducing government intrusion into the lives of all Americans.”

Under the federal health care law, for the first time in the nation’s history, the federal government is attempting to force individual Americans to enter into contracts and purchase services from private companies – in this case, insurance companies – or face a penalty. The state attorneys general are challenging this so-called individual mandate requirement, explaining that such an imposition on the American people exceeds Congress’ authority and violates Americans’ constitutional rights.

The bipartisan 26-state coalition currently includes Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Alaska, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine. The states are joined in this lawsuit by the National Federation of Independent Business, and individual plaintiffs Mary Brown and Kaj Ahlburg.

The multi-state lawsuit was filed shortly after President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. The legal action specifically challenges the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and names the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor as defendants because those federal agencies are charged with implementing the Act’s constitutionally impermissible provisions.

The lawsuit is filed in the Federal District Court in the Northern District of Florida. Attorney General Abbott represented the State of Texas during oral arguments before the federal district court in Florida on December 16, 2010.

Today’s ruling follows a December 13, 2010, ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia that the individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution.

Key Quotes From Today’s Ruling

“It is principally about our federalist system, and it raises very important issues regarding the Constitutional role of the federal government.”

“It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted.”

“If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”

“In short, the defendants’ argument that people without health insurance are actively engaged in interstate commerce based on the purported “unique” features of the much broader health care market is neither factually convincing nor legally supportable.”

“…the individual mandate is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution.”

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution.”

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”