A federal judge in Virginia struck down a key element in President Obama's health care overhaul on Monday, throwing into doubt the viability of the "individual mandate." Judge Henry Hudson, a Bush appointee, said that forcing individuals to buy coverage is an unconstitutional overreach of Congress' power, but he will let the law stay in effect while his ruling is appealed. Two other federal judges previously upheld the law, which will presumably make its way to the Supreme Court for an ultimate decision. How big a setback is this for Obama's signature domestic achievement? (Watch Robert Gibbs discuss the ruling)
The ruling advances the case for repeal: Democrats "assumed" that once "they rammed Obamacare down our throats in spite of the bill's well-known unpopularity," everyone would just move on, says John Hinderaker at PowerLine. That hasn't happened. The idea of having the law repealed is gaining popular support, and court decisions like this "add fuel to the pro-repeal fire."
"ObamaCare ruled unconstitutional"
This could be a win for liberals: That's just wishful thinking, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. The mandate in question can pretty easily be modified as needed, and health reformers are "unexpectedly pleased" that Hudson left the rest of the law alone. Besides, Klein adds, does the GOP really want to kill the mandate? After all, it's "one of very few ways to have a health-care system where everyone has coverage but private insurers dominate."
"Is the Hudson ruling good news for health reform?"
The ruling is a symbolic coup: The "partisan judicial split" between Hudson and the two Clinton-appointed judges who've upheld the mandate, says Dahlia Lithwick in Slate, shows "this is not really a constitutional debate; it's about policy preferences." And when it makes it to the Supreme Court, it will be decided by swing Justice Anthony Kennedy. But the conservatives' argument was once dismissed as "fanciful," and its validation in federal court is a big "symbolic triumph."
"Dream a little dream"