The third round in the legal challenge to ObamaCare went to the Republicans today. A federal judge in Virginia, George W. Bush appointee Henry E. Hudson, ruled that forcing Americans to buy health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, reports the New York Times. Washington, led by Attorney General Rob McKenna, is among the states challenging the president's historic health-care legislation in a similar but larger case in Florida, one of 20 federal court challenges.
Among those supporting the Obama administration in the case is Gov. Christine Gregoire, who has also challenged what she calls McKenna's "unauthorized" action to join in the legal case. Gregoire threw in with other Democratic governors to file a brief opposing the GOP challenge.
The disputed insurance mandate is a central feature of the program intended to cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Hudson, the Times notes, is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others--in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va.--have upheld the law.
Hudson ... declined the plaintiff's request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.
Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute. In a statement, McKenna said this morning that "Today's decision validates the constitutional question that 21 states have raised about the individual health insurance mandate....As we've said throughout this case, health care reform is critically important but must be done in a way that respects the constitutional rights reserved by the people to the states and themselves. Today's decision affirms that point of view."