Judge voids part of Obamacare

Ruling says law stretches bounds of Constitution

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Judge Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Virginia and Michigan, but he and Mr. Cuccinelli agreed that the ruling undoubtedly will be appealed — probably all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Mr. Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Reaction to the ruling was immediate.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration “argued on the other side of this case and disagrees with the ruling.” But he deemed it important to remember that 20 similar court challenges on the health care law are making their way through federal courts and that this decision was the first to go against the administration.

“We are confident that it is constitutional,” he said.

The spokesman said that although he had not conferred with Mr. Obama about the ruling, the elimination of the “individual responsibility portion” would undermine the entire law because only if everyone must participate in the insurance pool can provisions barring discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions be made workable.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department was “disappointed in today’s ruling” but continues to believe that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

“There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail,” Ms. Schmaler said.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill, who in January will take over the House and see their numbers rise in the Senate, asserted that the decision vindicates their opposition to the law and their successful campaign this November on a pledge to repeal at least part of the law.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican who was personally rebuked by Mr. Obama after he predicted that health care reform would be the president’s “Waterloo,” said the judge’s ruling made it clear that the president and Democrats “overreached and violated the Constitution in their rush to pass a federal takeover of our health care system.”

“The Constitution neither grants Congress nor the president the power to compel every American to buy government-approved health insurance,” he said. “The unconstitutional individual mandate is the centerpiece of the health care takeover and today’s ruling should signal the beginning of the end for Obamacare.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, applauded the decision, calling it “a great day for liberty.” He said, “Congress must obey the Constitution rather than make it up as we go along. Liberty requires limits on government, and today those limits have been upheld.”

“If the government can tell you what to buy, then what limits on federal power exist? The $2.6 trillion health law is an astonishing expansion of that power and bursts the limits that the Constitution imposes on the federal government,” said Mr. Hatch, the first senator to publicly argue that the individual insurance mandate was unconstitutional.

Utah is an original plaintiff in another major lawsuit against the Obama health care plan, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida, which now includes 20 states, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and individual citizens.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that while the ruling was likely to be appealed, it was a “clear signal that the constitutionality of the law, which was moved through Congress with a lot of controversy and partisanship, isn’t as certain as its supporters have argued.”

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