Lawmakers sound off on health-care ruling

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a key part of the health-care reform bill signed into law earlier this year is unconstitutional because Congress can’t require people to buy health insurance.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli had brought this case as soon as President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March, and told the Washington Post today that today’s ruling “won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution.”

As you’d expect, the Bay Area’s Congressional delegation – most of which solidly supported the Affordable Care Act – isn’t happy with the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is the exception among more than dozen court cases decided that have questioned any provision of the Affordable Care Act. In every other case, both Republican and Democratic appointed judges have ruled that the law is constitutional and that Congress did not exceed its authority,” House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release.

“It is clear that opponents of this historic law are working overtime to take affordable health care away from our nation’s families and put insurance companies back in control,” he said. “But just as challenges against Social Security and Civil Rights Act failed, I am confident that the law to guarantee that all Americans have access quality and affordable care will stand up to the legal attacks from special interests.”

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was – as usual – even blunter.

“Apparently Republicans are now for judicial activism after they were against it,” Stark said. “Unfortunately, we already know what happens if this lawsuit succeeds. Millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, premiums will go up for working families, and more people will be forced into bankruptcy when they get sick.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    I’m glad Messrs Miller and Stark speed-read through the relevant court decisions. They reacted as if you just them their daughters looked ugly.

  • John W

    Obviously, this is headed for the Supremes to resolve a series of conflicting District and Appeals Court rulings on the matter. Seems to me this could have been avoided by more cleverly framing this part of the legislation. Instead of a mandate and a modest IRS-enforced fine for non-compliance, Congress could have enacted a health care tax with a 100% offsetting tax credit for everybody who provides proof of coverage. In reality, there is no real mandate in the current legislation, since anybody can avoid it simply by paying the fine, which is very small compared to the cost of insurance. The fine may be objectionable to some people just because people don’t like the idea of penalties. But it could just as easily have been characterized as a mandatory contribution to the health care system by people who don’t purchase coverage, used to offset the impact they have on the overall health care system when they show up at the ER or County Hospital and are unable to pay the bill.

  • Elwood

    “this could have been avoided by more cleverly framing this part of the legislation”

    “Pass the bill, then read it” –Nancy Pelosi

  • John W

    Re #3

    Correct quote:

    “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

    In other words, so that people can look at it in it’s enacted form, without all the misrepresentations about death panels, 10 thousand IRS agents and blah, blah, blah.

    Imagine if we had today’s blogosphere, Fox, MSNBC, and wing-nut radio while those guys in Phily were working on the Constitution.

  • Elwood

    Re: #4

    Nice revisionist spin try.

    It’s still an act of unmitigated gall on Pelosi’s part.

    It still comes down to pass the bill then read it.

    Hopefully the courts will dispose of Ms. Pelosi’s grand scheme of Obamacare. The first shoe just dropped yesterday.

  • John W

    Re: #5

    Darn, I thought sure my comment on the subject would convince Elwood to do a 180. Oh well!

    Two other courts have, with far less media hoopla, upheld that provision. Both conservative and liberal legal gurus have said they expect it to be upheld. I’m not so sure. So, we’ll see where it goes.

    Of course, if the Supremes do rule that mandated coverage exceeds Congressional authority, I’m sure there will be challenges to Medicare on the same basis. Part B (Medical) is optional. Part A (Hospital) isn’t. In fact, I believe Dick Armey already has a case going on that. He’s one free market conservative who didn’t like being forced to give up his previous taxpayer-funded federal employee health coverage as a member of Congress at 65 and join the common folk in Medicare. Life’s a bummer. Should he or other challengers prevail, we’ll see how all the “ObamaCare” bashers like them apples.