Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tea Party Shout-Out In Recent Health Care Reform Ruling

Andrew Leonard made a very interesting observation for Salon that I thought was worth sharing - in Florida District Court Judge Roger Vinson's decision, there was an interesting passage that seemed to indicate the judge's ruling was more or less judicial activism, inspired by the tea party movement, of course.
Legal analysis aside, the most obvious thing about the four rulings that have been made so far is that two Clinton appointees have found the law constitutional, while Henry Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, and Vinson, a Reagan appointee, have not. Correlation is not causation, but Slate's Dave Weigel spotted a paragraph in Judge Vinson's opinion that seems more than a little resonant of current political fashions.
It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.
A Tea Party shout-out in a legal opinion on healthcare reform? Seems just a little bit obvious. Not to mention activist. And it further emphasizes the profound importance of the fight to determine who gets appointed to the federal judiciary, a fight Republicans have been winning for decades.
While Leonard's article discusses the importance of the president appointing judges to balance out Republican nominations to the bench, and help protect future legislation, I thought the tea party shout-out was extremely important, especially when you consider the garbage that has come out of the tea party, such as the birther movement.

I thought Vinson's reference of the British tax on tea to be very interesting, considering the slogan behind the founding father's displeasure with our colonial masters was "No Taxation Without Representation," and it just so happens our representation were the ones who created the health care reform.

Think Progress' Igor Volsky also pointed out that the Judge's ruling borrowed heavily from the conservative Family Research Council - the one that believes gays are out to get your children and destroy religion - as well as ignoring legal precedent of deferring to Congress on matters of severability, opting to use the FRC's assessment instead.
Vinson’s conclusion is peculiar because the courts usually defer to Congress on questions of severability. In fact, even Judge Henry Hudson — the Virginia Judge who also found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional — left the whole of the law intact noting, “It would be virtually impossible within the present record to determine whether Congress would have passed this bill, encompassing a wide variety of topics related and unrelated to health care, without Section 1501…Therefore, this Court will hew closely to the time-honored rule to sever with circumspection, severing any ‘problematic portions while leaving the remainder intact.’”

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in Free Enterprise Fund et al. v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, “Because ‘[t]he unconstitutionality of a part of an Act does not necessarily defeat or affect the validity of its remaining provisions,’ Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Comm’n of Okla. , 286 U. S. 210, 234 (1932) , the ‘normal rule’ is ‘that partial, rather than facial, invalidation is the required course.’”
Why would a federal judge, appointed by Ronald Reagan, make tea party references and write a ruling that believes the health care reform bill in its entirety must be thrown out?


  1. It is pure politics to placate the teabaggers. On page 45 of the opinion, the judge notes Congress found in 2008 the uninsured were responsible for $43 billion in uncompensated expenses. That is right, $43 billion. So much for the argument that the decision to purchase health insurance is a "passive" activity. Additionally, the last time I looked the Constitution said Congress has the authority to regulate "commerce". They did not break it down between passive and active.

  2. Can't wait to see what the next ruling brings...


Please share your thoughts and experiences in relation to this post. Remember to be respectful in your posting. Comments that that are deemed inappropriate will be deleted.