Plaintiffs Say Judge Who Invalidated Health Law Meant To Stop Rollout
The Obama administration's recent request for clarification of a federal district court judge's ruling to invalidate the federal health reform law is a thinly veiled attempt to seek a stay of the ruling and stop the case from progressing to the higher courts, according to a court brief filed on Wednesday by the suit's plaintiffs, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/23).
On Jan. 31, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the health reform law's individual mandate -- which requires most U.S. residents to purchase health insurance coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty -- is unconstitutional. Vinson agreed with the plaintiffs -- 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and several individuals -- that the mandate exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. The Florida-based judge concluded that because the mandate is "inextricably bound" to other provisions in the law, the entire law is invalid (California Healthline, 2/1).
Although he invalidated the law, Vinson did not suspend further implementation of the overhaul, which the plaintiffs had requested (California Healthline, 2/2). In a motion filed last week on behalf of the administration, the Department of Justice asked Vinson to confirm that his ruling does not exempt states from complying with the law's provisions and to clarify whether further implementation of the law should be halted pending the outcome of an appeal (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/17).
"Memorandum of Opposition"
In the motion opposing the clarification request, the plaintiffs contend that Vinson's ruling clearly meant that the federal government should halt further implementation of the overhaul ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/23). The plaintiffs said DOJ's attempt to seek a stay of Vinson's order is nothing more than "wishful thinking" because it does not meet the criteria for one, according to Politico.
The memo stated, "If the Government was not prepared to comply with [Vinson's] judgment, the proper and respectful course would have been to seek an immediate stay, not an untimely and unorthodox motion to clarify." The plaintiffs added, "If the Government does not intend to comply with [Vinson's] order, it should seek a stay from the 11th Circuit without further delay or further unexcused noncompliance" (Grieve, Politico, 2/23).
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), who filed the court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs, also noted in a statement, "This issue is too important for delay, and we urge the President to file an appeal in the appropriate appellate court," adding, "It is in the country's best interest to present this case before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible" (Office of the Florida Attorney General release, 2/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.