If the ruling holds up on appeal, Obamacare is dead. As a doorknob. Not just the mandate or some other particular provisions. He killed the WHOLE THING.

Reed O’Connor, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, just killed Obamacare.

If the ruling holds up on appeal, Obamacare is dead. As a doorknob. Not just the mandate or some other particular provisions.

He killed the WHOLE THING.

The Order (pdf.) is embedded in full at the bottom of this post.

Here’s the short version. Texas and other states sued to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional because in the recent tax reform the penalty for failing to pay the mandate was removed. (2nd Amended Complaint here) With the removal of the mandate penalty, the mandate no longer was a function of Congress’ taxing power, which was the basis upon which John Roberts and the liberal Justices on the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the mandate in 2012. The Court conservative and Roberts had ruled the mandate violated the Commerce Clause, but Roberts broke with the conservatives on the tax power issue.

But there’s more.

The district court ruled that the mandate was an essential and inseverable part of Obamacare. Because the mandate was held to be unconstitutional and inseverable, the judge held the remainder of Obamacare to be unconstitutional.

The Court did not grant an injunction, so the Trump administration is under no obligation to terminate programs under Obamacare unless and until the Order holds up on appeal.

From the Order:

Resolution of these claims rests at the intersection of the ACA, the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB, and the TCJA. In NFIB, the Supreme Court held the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause but could fairly be read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power because it triggered a tax. The TCJA eliminated that tax. The Supreme Court’s reasoning in NFIB—buttressed by other binding precedent and plain text—thus compels the conclusion that the Individual Mandate may no longer be upheld under the Tax Power. And because the Individual Mandate continues to mandate the purchase of health insurance, it remains unsustainable under the Interstate Commerce Clause—as the Supreme Court already held.

Finally, Congress stated many times unequivocally—through enacted text signed by the President—that the Individual Mandate is “essential” to the ACA. And this essentiality, the ACA’s text makes clear, means the mandate must work “together with the other provisions” for the Act to function as intended. All nine Justices to review the ACA acknowledged this text and Congress’s manifest intent to establish the Individual Mandate as the ACA’s “essential” provision. The current and previous Administrations have recognized that, too. Because rewriting the ACA without its “essential” feature is beyond the power of an Article III court, the Court thus adheres to Congress’s textually expressed intent and binding Supreme Court precedent to find the Individual Mandate is inseverable from the ACA’s remaining provisions.

Construing the Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction, (ECF No. 39), as a motion for partial summary judgment, the Court therefore DENIES Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction but GRANTS summary judgment on Count I of the Amended Complaint.

More:

The Court today finds the Individual Mandate is no longer fairly readable as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and continues to be unsustainable under Congress’s Interstate Commerce Power. The Court therefore finds the Individual Mandate, unmoored from a tax, is unconstitutional and GRANTS Plaintiffs’ claim for declaratory relief as to Count I of the Amended Complaint.

* * *

Applying these standards, the Court finds the 2010 Congress expressed through plain text an unambiguous intent that the Individual Mandate not be severed from the ACA. Supreme Court precedent supports that finding. And in passing the TCJA through the reconciliation process, the 2017 Congress further entrenched the intent manifested by the 2010 Congress.

* * *

All told, Congress stated three separate times that the Individual Mandate is essential to the ACA.25 That is once, twice, three times and plainly. It also stated the absence of the Individual Mandate would “undercut” its “regulation of the health insurance market.” Thirteen different times, Congress explained how the Individual Mandate stood as the keystone of the ACA. And six times, Congress explained it was not just the Individual Mandate, but the Individual Mandate “together with the other provisions” that allowed the ACA to function as Congress intended….

On the unambiguous enacted text alone, the Court finds the Individual Mandate is inseverable from the Act to which it is essential.28 ….

“In sum, Congress passed the minimum coverage provision as a key component of the ACA.” Id. at 599 (Ginsburg, J., joined by Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor, JJ.) (emphasis added); accord id. at 539 (majority) (“This case concerns constitutional challenges to two key provisions, commonly referred to as the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion.” (emphasis added)). Not a key component of the guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions, but of the ACA. The Supreme Court’s only reasoning on the topic thus supports what the text says: The Individual Mandate is essential to the ACA….

In sum, the Individual Mandate “is so interwoven with [the ACA’s] regulations that they cannot be separated. None of them can stand.” Wallace, 259 U.S. at 70.

* * *

The Court finds the Individual Mandate “is essential to” and inseverable from “the other provisions of” the ACA.

FLASHBACK

Severability was a major subject of oral argument the first time Obamacare came before the Supreme Court. See my March 28, 2012 post, Obamacare Oral Argument, Day 3 – Severability.

REACTIONS

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Texas v USA – Obamacare Case – District Court Order Holding Obamacare Mandate Unconstitutional (12!14!2018)… by Legal Insurrection on Scribd

[Featured Image: Barack Obama reacts to the passing of Healthcare bill March 2010]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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