February 4, 2011

Health care reform dead, exulted Van Hollen

Reports The Economist, among many others. Wisconsin's Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's unseemly triumphalism raised an unholy ruckus the other day after a federal judge in Florida declared Obama's health care act unconstitutional. Consternation was high over Van Hollen's remarks, especially within liberal quarters.

But you know what? J.B. Van Hollen was/is correct, even though the PPACA's demise may be short-lived.* The Constitution is clearer on this point than it is on the question of whether the individual insurance mandate violates the Interstate Commerce Clause:
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
"And" is the operative word there, and obviously the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida is among those ordained and established by Congress (much to its current regret, perhaps).

In other words, if the Supreme Court can slap on an injunction preventing the enforcement of federal legislation — and it can — then so might a district court. The judicial power inheres in both equally.

While Judge Clyde Roger Vinson did not expressly grant the injunction the plaintiffs — who included J.B. Van Hollen despite his Johnny-come-lately presence in the case caption — sought, he instructed the federal government his order was tantamount to an injunction, relying instead on the federales' good faith in treating it as such.

JBVH's basking in the press glow may have been provocative and, frankly, annoying,** but he's not wrong as a matter of law.

* Odds are good Obama will win a stay over Judge Vinson's ruling pending an appeal to the 11th Circuit. In the meantime the administration's own defiant pronouncements rest on shaky grounds.

** The AGs of Ohio and Texas, for example, were considerably more circumspect and, in this observer's estimation, more professional. I understand the AG's is a partisan office but it needn't be so deliberately blatant — and for many people, insensitive — about it.

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