By: Ed Hassell
As legal scholars have already noted, Federal Judge Roger Vinson’s 78-page ruling in the major Florida decision that struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was not only bold but also extremely well written.
That’s not just because he knew it would be headline news.
Vinson not only wanted his decision to be legally sound, he wanted it to reverberate with the Supreme Court justices who will ultimately decide the case. It’s safe to say most judges at this level do not like being reversed.
One of Vinson’s key findings was that while the individual mandate was clearly “necessary and essential” to the law as drafted, it was not “necessary and essential” to health care reform in general. And he used then-Senator Obama’s own words in his explanation. “Indeed, I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at the time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that ‘if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody by a house,’” Vinson wrote.
He did not see the lawsuit as a battle over health care reform itself, but moreover a Constitutional call to arms. Like many opponents of the law, Judge Vinson thought there was a better way to achieve the reform’s most important goals without turning our country away from a land governed by laws to one governed by men—men who may turn out to be tyrants as certain countries in the Middle East are now showing us.
Followers of this landmark case are already aware that Obama’s televised assertion that the law was not a tax–during the protracted political battle over the legislation–is something his own government lawyers retracted throughout this case. During the oral arguments, Judge Vinson rightly called them on it. Still, federal lawyers have been forced to argue that for all intents and purposes, the fine imposed by not buying insurance is a tax that the government is well within its rights to levy, thanks to their novel interpretation of the Commerce Clause.
With his Florida ruling, Judge Vinson loudly disagreed.
The judge did lazy reporters a favor by pointing them toward other examples that clearly showed the president at odds with the law that now euphemistically bears his name. Here is an actual quote the judge mentions in his ruling from then-Senator Obama during a CNN interview that aired February 5, 2008:
“If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate? I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house. The reason they don’t buy a house is they don’t have the money. And so, our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident if people have a chance to buy high-quality health care that is affordable, they will do so.”
President Obama understood the problem he would be facing from the beginning but was persuaded by economists and political insiders who argued early on that the individual mandate was necessary for the law to succeed.
If you want to hear from those early voices—the kind of historic context you won’t see humorously bandied about on political critiques by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—continue on down the bread crumb path left by Judge Vinson’s ruling and start with Christopher Lee’s revealing Washington Post article, “Simple Question Defines Complex Health Care Debate,” from February 24, 2008. Then you may feel free to wonder aloud what became of this admittedly intellectual president’s memory regarding health care in Massachusetts.In the article, the author asks should the government require Americans to purchase health care insurance? Senator Obama disagrees, arguing that a law “should not force anyone to buy insurance he or she cannot afford.”
Obama sparred with Hilary Clinton repeatedly over the subject of the individual mandate. Looking at the Massachusetts plan, Obama was quoted as saying: “In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were … They don’t have health insurance, and they’re paying a fine.”
Oops. And how does that not apply to ObamaCare?
Lee accurately identified the coming problem in his prophetic piece: the big fight over the individual mandate and universal coverage. The Democrats wanted a candidate “to do something big” says a Harvard public opinion expert quoted in the piece. On the other side, the last thing that Republicans wanted was more big government and red tape bureaucracy. The battle lines were drawn early.
Senator Obama understood the folly of the individual mandate. It’s too bad he didn’t listen to his own advice, his own attacks on the health care system in Mitt Romney’s state, which would soon become an eerie predecessor to the ObamaCare monster. If he had kept a level head, it might have saved the taxpayers tons of money and discontent, as the law now looks headed for at least partial, if not outright defeat, in the legal system.
Obama, a former professor of Constitutional law, knew he was headed down the wrong path but did what it took to get votes—just another example of big time politics at odds with intellectual honesty.
On January 31, Judge Vinson called him on it.