A handpicked district court judge in Florida rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, allowing challenges to the constitutionality of the law on two counts to go forward. Attorney General Bill McCollum, forum-shopping to the most conservative city in Florida, Pensacola, for the best opportunity to get a sympathetic judge, filed the suit on behalf of 20 states.
“In this order, I have not attempted to determine whether the line between constitutional and extra-constitutional government has been crossed,” Vinson, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, wrote in his ruling.
Opponents of Obama’s overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system have said it violates the Constitution by imposing, for example, unlawful taxes and requiring citizens to obtain coverage, among other issues.
“I am only saying that … the plaintiffs have at least stated a plausible claim that the line has been crossed,” Vinson said.
In particular, Judge Vinson allowed two challenges to continue: 1) the individual mandate, the idea that Americans would be forced to purchase health insurance or pay a fine; and 2) the mandate for expanding Medicaid in all states to 133% of the poverty level. Vinson threw out three other challenges to the law, and dismissed a fourth as moot. A separate judge in Detroit ruled last week that the individual mandate was legal and constitutional.
The first hearing in the case will be held December 16, kicking off a process that will in all likelihood last years and end in the Supreme Court.
The full judge’s ruling is here. The 65-page order includes many digressions and side arguments about the nature of a tax, the performance of the US health care system and the political difficulty of individual votes in Congress during the health care debate.