>Judicial Activism and the Affordable Care Act


President Obama and the White House responds to yesterday’s ruling by a Federal Judge down in Florida that declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

Posted at The White House Blog by Stephanie Cutter on January 31, 2011

Today, a judge in Florida issued a decision in a case filed by 25 Republican Attorneys General and Governors striking down the Affordable Care Act. This ruling is well out of the mainstream of judicial opinion. Twelve federal judges have already dismissed challenges to the constitutionality of the health reform law, and two judges – in the Eastern District of Michigan and Western District of Virginia – have upheld the law. In one other case, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a very narrow ruling on the constitutionality of the health reform law’s “individual responsibility” provision and upheld the rest of the law.

Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching. The judge’s decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent that support the considered judgment of the democratically elected branches of government that the Act’s “individual responsibility” provision is necessary to prevent billions of dollars of cost-shifting every year by individuals without insurance who cannot pay for the health care they obtain. And the judge declared that the entire law is null and void even though the only provision he found unconstitutional was the “individual responsibility” provision. This decision is at odds with decades of established Supreme Court law, which has consistently found that courts have a constitutional obligation to preserve as a much of a statute as can be preserved. As a result, the judge’s decision puts all of the new benefits, cost savings and patient protections that were included in the law at risk.

Under today’s view of the law, seniors will pay higher prices for their prescription drugs and small businesses will pay higher taxes because small business tax credits would be eliminated. And the new provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying, capping or limiting your care would be wiped away.

We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts.

History and the facts are on our side. Similar legal challenges to major new laws — including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — were all filed and all failed. And contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.

Those who claim that the “individual responsibility” provision exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes “inactivity” are simply wrong. Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively making an economic decision that impacts all of us. People who make an economic decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market. As Congress found, every year millions of people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, shifting tens of billions of dollars in added cost onto those who have insurance and onto taxpayers. There can be no doubt that this activity substantially affects interstate commerce, and Congress has the power to regulate it.

The Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone, if they can afford it, to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for. For the 83% of Americans who have coverage and who are already taking responsibility for their health care, their insurance premiums will decrease over time. Many of those who are currently struggling to pay for insurance will get a new tax credit. Only those who are able to pay for health insurance will be responsible for obtaining it. Because most people would voluntarily purchase coverage as it becomes more affordable and the policy exempts those for whom purchase would cause a financial hardship, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 1 percent of all Americans would pay a penalty for not having health insurance in 2016….

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Filed under activist judges, Florida, The America’s Affordable Health Choice Act, the White House Blog, unconstitutional

10 responses to “>Judicial Activism and the Affordable Care Act

  1. >The White House says that "History and the facts are on our side." Yeah, and liberal judges are on your side, too. This is the first time I have ever heard of conservative (right wing) judicial activism.

  2. >Anon 12:51Why is it only considered Judicial Activism when perceived "liberal" judges decide cases that conservatives find offensive, while "conservative" judges that participate in judicial activism are deemed to be correct? It's a double standard.All judges are guilty of activism, there are thousands of cases that can bebe pointed to, to support each sides opinion.This decision clearly fits into the category of judicial activism at its worse.

  3. >Always remember judges are political appointments. They are all capable of judicial activism and many engage in just that. Legislating from the bench from their bully pulpits is not unheard of no matter party affiliation either.

  4. >Mike,I agree with your comment to Anon 12:51. Judicial Activism can be defined as judges imposing their own views on the law. Right? I would find it hard to believe, then, based on your comment, that you would have been supportive of Elena Kagan's appointment to the supreme court when she believes that: "that when judges make decisions, they must take account of their values and experience and consider politics and policy." Wouldn't her philosophy, then, be one of judicial activism?

  5. >Anon 9:59,All judges at one time or another are involved activism, that's why they are judges. They use the best judgement to interpret the law.If judges weren't given the leeway to interpret the law as they see it, our society would be extremely ridged and close to a dictatorship.

  6. >Anonymous 9:59 a.m….you will get to see political activism at work because this issue,the Affordable Care act will be appealed to the Supreme Court before all is said and done. Let's hope justice for all will enter into that decision.

  7. >Judicial activism is a term used by Arthur Schlesinger to describe certain personality types on the court. As they often do with the English language, the right wing propagandists have distorted the term to apply to virtually every decision they don't agree with. The manner in which the term is currently used all but renders it meaningless. In any case, I'll take a "judicial activist" over a judicial liar anyday. Give me an Elena Kagan "taking account of her values" over a Clarence Thomas taking account of nothing-including his wife's activities and income on his financial disclosures. If you think that Thomas and Scalia, with their closed to the public pow-wows with Tea Party financiers aren't reflecting their values, you really are deluded.

  8. >anon 2/2 @ 10:21 p.m…..could not agree with you more. Too bad there aren't more like Elena Kagan on the court and less of the likes of Thomas and Scalia.

  9. >Anon 10:21Who said that I don't like Kagen, and that I support Scalia and Thomas? The whole point of my post at 9:59 was to show that that the double standard exists on both sides of the aisle. For the record, I am independent, even though, to be honest, I will say that I lean to the right. You say that: "right wing propagandists have distorted the term to apply to virtually every decision they don't agree with." Well, Mike was applying the "activist" tag to a decision that he did not agree with … so is he, then, a left wing propagandist? I am not saying he is, just asking the question based on your logic.Mike, thank you for the dialogue.Anon 10:21, Who is a judicial "liar" … and why can't we have debate / discourse without name calling, anger, and/or personal attacks getting involved?

  10. >Anon:10:14 a.m.,You can have discourse without name calling etc. when the same respect for those who disagree with your view is shown as well as expected.We are all entitled to our opinions even in our political differences and there are times when the courts clearly demonstrate these clear philosophical differences.

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