Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Court raises stakes on health care law"

Ari Melber (Politico):
In the decision, Judge Roger Vinson conceded that it is unusual to throw out an entire statute just because one part is held unconstitutional. Then he did it. He ruled the government does not have the power to make people buy insurance, and then chucked out everything else.

By taking that tack, this case is different than all the others challenges to the health care law.

It raises the stakes from tinkering to demolition. For the first time, a lower court has proposed a legal theory that the individual mandate eviscerates the legal foundation of the entire law. This opens an attractive avenue for a conservative Supreme Court aiming to permanently limit federal power.

For the past 15 years, the court’s conservative bloc has sought to curb Congress’ use of the Constitution’s commerce powers, invalidating even popular laws targeting violence against women and guns in school. To most people, those were obscure cases. Now, the court could wade into today’s most prominent domestic issue, linking its jurisprudence to an impassioned constituency.
Meanwhile, the White House has begun echoing a traditionally conservative legal playbook, criticizing the decision as “judicial activism.”

Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to President Barack Obama for health care, called the ruling a “plain case of judicial overreaching,” breaking with the precedent that “courts have a constitutional obligation to preserve as a much of a statute as can be preserved.”

Senior presidential adviser David Axelrod, for his part, sounded like a law professor lecturing on separation of powers. “The role of the courts is not to look for expansive opportunities to invalidate an act of Congress,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post, “it is to rule narrowly as possible and leave intact the intent of the legislation.”MORE...

Howie P.S.: Gosh, maybe the three years Ari just spent in law school wasn't a career detour after all!

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