A prominent conservative and tea-party enthusiast is hailing a federal judge’s decision to strike down a big part of the health care reform law as a big victory for the tea party movement.
Judge Henry Hudson on Monday declared unconstitutional the mandate within the reform law that all Americans carry health coverage. Hudson reportedly released a 42-page opinion that finds that the mandate, a key provision of the law, exceeds the ability of Congress to regulate interstate trade.
The decision, by an appointee of President George W. Bush, comes as a result of a court challenge by Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican.
“Mr. Cuccinelli has been a true leader in the cause of freedom and constitutionally limited government. His win is also a victory for the entire Tea Party movement and constitutional conservatives everywhere,” says Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative activist and author.
“Now more than ever, Tea Partiers and constitutional conservatives must rally behind and support Ken Cuccinelli as he takes his case–and the Gadsden flag (‘Don’t tread on me’) that decorates his office–through the appeals process,” says Viguerie, who has been called “one of the creators of the modern conservative movement.”
“It’s time for all freedom-loving Americans to let Ken know that we’re behind him every step through final resolution–and victory–in his case at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Viguerie says.
The mandate provision began as a Republican idea, pushed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, as Romney steered state-level health reform in the Bay State. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP nominee for president, also once supported a health mandate.
‘Poorly Reasoned Decision’
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee took aim at Hudson’s decision, and called Cuccinelli’s action one of the “politically motivated challenges” against the law.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a strong supporter of the healthcare reform law, also says he expects appeals to overturn Hudson’s decision.
“While several judges have dismissed challenges to the Affordable Care Act, today, Judge Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia declared that one provision of the law is unconstitutional. Judge Hudson did not issue an injunction requiring the federal government to suspend implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as the relevant section does not go into effect for several years. Other decisions handed down by courts across the country have upheld Congress’s authority to enact this legislation; Judge Hudson’s decision is the first to depart from those rulings. I expect that today’s opinion, as well as other rulings around the country related to the Affordable Care Act, will be appealed, and the circuit courts will hear further arguments in the coming months,” says Leahy, who earlier this year defended the constitutionality of the mandate clause in a speech on the Senate floor, just days after President Obama signed the landmark reform into law.
“Some of the same politicians bringing these suits once criticized court challenges of other laws, arguing that those plaintiffs were trying to achieve a victory in court when they did not have the votes to win in Congress,” Leahy adds. “The politically-motivated court challenges of the Affordable Care Act appear to be just that. Partisans who did not have the votes in the elected branches when the law passed after years of debate are now trying to fulfill their ideological priorities in court.
“I trust that our independent judiciary will uphold time-honored precedent and Congress’s constitutional power to enact laws that ensure the health and security of hardworking Americans, just as they have upheld laws creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
An analyst at a progressive Washington think tank took also direct issue at Hudson’s ruling on Monday.
“Make no mistake: Judge Henry Hudson’s poorly reasoned decision is living on borrowed time,” says Neera Tanden, at the Center for American Progress. “We at the Center for American Progress are confident that it will not hold up to further scrutiny.”
Hudson, Tanden says, “has a financial stake in a major Republican consulting firm, ignored precedent, the consensus of his colleagues, and the Constitution itself to strike down an essential component of the Affordable Care Act.”
Further, 14 other judges have dismissed challenges to the health reform law as being without merit, she adds.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.