In ruling against President Obama’s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson used Mr. Obama’s own position from the 2008 campaign against him, when the then-Illinois senator argued there were other ways to achieve reform short of requiring every American to purchase insurance.
“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 that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of his 78-page ruling Monday.
Judge Vinson, a federal judge in the northern district of Florida, struck down the entire health care law as unconstitutional on Monday, though he is allowing the Obama administration to continue to implement and enforce it while the government appeals his ruling.
The footnote was attached to the most critical part of Judge Vinson’s ruling, in which he said the “principal dispute” in the case was not whether Congress has the power to tackle health care, but rather whether it has the power to compel individual citizens to purchase insurance.
Judge Vinson cited Mr. Obama’s campaign words from an interview with CNN to show that there are other options that could pass constitutional muster including then-candidate Obama’s plan.
During the presidential campaign, one key difference between Mr. Obama and his chief opponent, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was that Mrs. Clinton’s plan required all Americans to purchase insurance and Mr. Obama’s did not.
Congress eventually included the individual mandate in the bill it passed, and Mr. Obama signed that into law in March. Since then, he and his administration have defended its constitutionality, arguing the mandate is the linchpin that brings in more customers to insurance companies, which in turn allows those companies to expand the availability and lower the cost of coverage.
Much of Judge Vinson’s ruling was a discussion of how the Founding Fathers, including James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, saw the limits on congressional power. Judge Vinson hypothesized that, under the Obama administration’s legal theory, the government could mandate that all citizens eat broccoli.
White House officials said that sort of “surpassingly curious reading” called into question Judge Vinson’s entire ruling.
“There’s something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis,” said a White House official who briefed reporters late Monday afternoon, speaking on the condition of anonymity.