Heartland Institute Experts React to Ruling that Obamacare Is Unconstitutional

Published December 13, 2010

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia today declared the Obama administration’s health care reform law unconstitutional.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed the lawsuit challenging the law’s requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014. The federal government, agreed Hudson, doesn’t have the constitutional authority to impose the requirement. Other lawsuits are pending, including one filed in a Florida court by 20 states.

The Heartland Institute has helped lead the legal fight against Obamacare, with Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara filing an amicus brief in support of Cuccinelli’s suit in his work with the American Civil Rights Union.

The following comments from Heartland scholars can be used for attribution, or you can reach them for additional comments at the phone numbers and email addresses provided below:
Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for health care policy at The Heartland Institute and author of The Obamacare Disaster:

“I predict that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold this ruling 5-4, except that I believe the severability ruling will be overturned because even the government admits the entire reform is unworkable without the individual mandate.”

Ferrara can be reached for additional comment at [email protected] and 703/582-8466.
Ben Domenech, research fellow, The Heartland Institute, and managing editor of Health Care News:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Constitution, Judge Henry Hudson told us today – and everyone has to abide by it, no matter what they want to achieve politically. In rejecting the individual mandate as a constitutional matter, Judge Hudson struck the first major legal blow against President Barack Obama’s unpopular and ill-thought mishmash of a health care law.

“Expect it to be the first of many to come, as it now seems clear the Supreme Court will ultimately determine America’s path forward on health care and whether American citizens can legally be required to purchase products at the whim of the government. Political leaders today should learn from this lesson and begin to write bills with their mind not on ‘what do I think people should do,’ but on a more basic question: ‘What does the Constitution say?'”

Domenech can be reached for additional comment at [email protected] or 703/509-1741.
Maureen Martin, J.D., senior fellow for legal affairs, The Heartland Institute:

“In ruling the individual mandate unconstitutional, Judge Hudson found Congress had gone far beyond the limits of the U.S. Constitution in enacting Obamacare. Congress can regulate only economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the judge held. An individual’s decision against purchasing health insurance is a passive decision, not an active one.

“This ruling is spot on. Congress has vastly exceeded its powers to an extent unprecedented in our history. Fortunately, Judge Hudson has stopped this overreach in its tracks.

“Judge Hudson also called out the Obama administration in its hypocritical vacillation over whether payments to the IRS for failure to purchase health insurance are penalties or taxes. The administration first called them penalties, and then in court called them taxes after it belatedly realized the federal government has broader powers to enact taxes than to enact penalties. The judge rejected this canard and properly called them penalties.
“The one area in which I believe Judge Hudson erred is in severing the constitutionality of the individual mandate from the remaining 2,000 pages of the health care bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued the individual mandate is the ‘linchpin’ of the rest of the act, and told the court the revenue raised through it is crucial to the success of the entire federal health care scheme. So it should logically follow the whole bill must fall if part of it does.”

Martin can be reached for additional comment at [email protected] and 920/229-6670.
Greg Scandlen, senior fellow for health care policy at The Heartland Institute and founder and director of Consumers for Health Care Choices, “This ruling is a reminder that our constitution gives Congress and the federal government limited powers. Many people get confused on this point.

“Massachusetts has mandated health insurance coverage and no one has argued that the commonwealth’s mandate is unconstitutional. That is because the states are allowed to do things that are forbidden to the federal government.

“The question here is not whether mandatory coverage is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is within the scope of the powers of the federal government.”

Scandlen can be reached at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.
The Heartland Institute is a 26-year-old national nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.