In Obamacare Case, Constitution Is Victor

Today is a great day for liberty.  By striking down the individual mandate, the Eleventh Circuit has reaffirmed that the Constitution places limits on the federal government’s power.  Congress can do a great many things under modern constitutional jurisprudence, but, as the court concludes, “what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”  Indeed, just because Congress can regulate the health insurance industry does not mean it can also require people to buy that industry’s products.

One of the striking things about today’s ruling is that, for the first time in one of these cases, a Democrat-appointed judge, Frank Hull, has ruled against the government.  Just as the Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton made waves by being the first Republican appointee to rule in the government’s favor, today’s 300-page ruling shows that the constitutional issues raised by the healthcare reform—and especially the individual mandate—are complex, serious, and non-ideological.

Supporters of limited constitutional government need to temper their celebrations—just as they wisely tempered their sorrows after the last ruling—because we must all now realize that this will not end until the Supreme Court rules.  Nevertheless, today’s decision gives hope to those who believe that there are some things beyond the government’s reach and that the judiciary cannot abdicate its duty to hold Congress’s feet to the constitutional fire.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.

This post first appeared at Cato@Liberty – Cato Institute Blog.

12 replies »

  1. Can’t Congress just legislate that people must lead a healtly life style? Drink a glass a red wine each day, no added sugar in food or drink, no added salt, gluten free food, fat free food, brush teeth 3x a day, walk up stairs when the distance is less that 4 flights of stairs, no more that 5% above recommended body mass index for sex, height and age, work to work/school when the distance is less that .5 miles

  2. The constitutional issues raised by the healthcare reform is important yet very serious as you said, it is the fact. We cant do anything for it.

  3. “And again the reform is flawed, but it allows for more health care for more people.”

    David, things are not that simple. Thre will be fewer of me taking insurance as payment for service. On, did I hear you think they will make me take it? Are they going to make me not retire? Will I be your slave doctor to service the elite bringing hope and change to the little people? W

    Wake up. People do not need one tenth the care they think they need and only a tiny fraction of what they want for free.

    Save when you are young. Buy a real insurance policy. Live your life happy and free from fear-mongering politicians. Grow as old as your genes allow. Die with peace of mind that you are free.

    With or without ObamaCare you die. Have faith in yourself.

  4. The timeless one liner, ” Give me liberty, or give me death.” The 21st century remix of that saying, “Give me a libertarian Government, and hopefully I won’t die due to lack of health insurance. Obama was elected on the platform of change, perhaps that doesn’t warrant a mandate for health reform, but when Obama enacted his opinion of ideal change the people were eager to voice their disapproval. The health care reform is by no means perfect, but it will succeed if, and only if, it is backed by the American people. And again the reform is flawed, but it allows for more health care for more people. Is that so terrible?

  5. Well, sure. But most dictionaries point out that definition #1 is a word used to characterize something and then immediately following, #2 usually points out that an epithet is generally used pejoratively.

    I made quick & dirty with the Google and it shows me that the term “Obamacare” is used repeatedly in a derogatory manner, mostly by staunch political opponents.

    Lastly, the mother in me has to ask – if Forbes decided to smoke pot, would you think it was a good idea? If Forbes jumped off a bridge, would you think jumping off a bridge is a good idea?

  6. So if someone discovers a breast cancer vaccine that is 100% effective, but some court finds it to be unconstitutional, would we still be hailing the victory for the Constitution? Just asking.

  7. I will agree with this ruling when the hospitals are NOT required to treat individuals in their ER’s without proof of payment. You can not have one without the other. This is just common sense that the right is not seeing.

  8. It’s used as an epithet.

    When the appellate ruling was announced, notwithstanding that we all know this is going to SCOTUS, Forbes came right out of the blocks with the blaring headline “ObamaCare Ruled Unconstitutional.”

  9. This should be funded by taxation. There are no Constitutional issues with taxation. Of course, there are ideological issues with taxation and “public options”, which render a solution impossible at this time, but these are not issues that the courts need to address. This ought to be resolved at the ballot box.

  10. So, how would YOU propose to manage the bankrupting problem of health care cost in this nation? (not that I am any fan of the “individual mandate,” by any means).