Vinson Ruling 101


By Hadley Heath

If you're curious about Judge Vinson's ruling, but don't have time to read the 78-page decision, here's some highlights from his examination of the individual mandate.  This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Independent Women's Forum Inkwell blog.  Vinson more or less ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional after asking and answering this series of questions:

1.       Is "activity" a prerequisite for government intervention/regulation of Commerce?

Yes.  Existing case law tells us that Congress does have the power to regulate interstate commerce, or even more, any activity that has a substantial, direct effect on interstate commerce.  But no case has asserted that Congress may exert its Commerce Clause powers without a prerequisite activity.  (In other words, we may be required to purchase car insurance, but the prerequisite activity is driving a car.)

2.      Is the failure to buy health insurance an "activity"?

No.  Vinson explained that not buying something is not an activity.  It is simple passive existence. 

3.      Is the health care market "unique" in this respect?

No.    Vinson made an analogy to the housing market, in which a large majority of Americans will inevitably participate over their lifetimes.  Yet Congress cannot require that we all own a home in order to stabilize the housing market. 

4.       Is forgoing health insurance an "economic decision"?

No.  If forgoing the purchase of health insurance was an "economic decision," then there is no end to what the government can regulate or mandate. 

Finally, Vinson pointed out that the health law has no severability clause.  As Sabrina [a senior fellow at IWF] noted, the only reason the individual mandate is "necessary" is because the rest of the law rigs the health system so that it will only be feasible with a universal mandate. 

This would be like requiring everyone in the U.S. to wear a hardhat.  It would be necessary if we made the entire nation into a dangerous construction zone.  But otherwise, it is neither necessary nor proper.


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