Heartland Institute Reacts to Fourth Circuit Ruling on Obamacare Mandate

September 08, 2011

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Thursday overruled a December 2010 decision striking down the mandate in Obamacare that individuals purchase health insurance. The case involves Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s suit that claims the law’s mandate is unconstitutional. The panel unanimously ruled Cuccinelli did not have standing to sue.

The following statements from legal and health care experts at The Heartland Institute may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the information below.

To book any of these individuals for an interview, please contact Heartland’s director of communications, Jim Lakely, at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/731-9364, or media specialist Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

“This is one of the most intellectually dishonest and blatantly erroneous judicial opinions I’ve ever read, and I’ve been reading opinions for a living for 30 years.

“The Fourth Circuit ruled Thursday the Commonwealth of Virginia has no ‘standing’ to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of Obamacare. Virginia passed a statute declaring its citizens are not subject to the individual mandate provision. The court found, however, that states do not have the power to stop a federal law, citing past precedents of a garden variety nature.

“The Fourth Circuit never addresses the fact that the federal law, as Virginia argued strenuously and the lower court ruled, is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause and usurps the sovereign power of the Commonwealth of Virginia granted to it by the U.S. Constitution.

“The issue presented in this case is unprecedented and enormously serious, as many states are focusing on the scope of federal constitutional power. The Fourth Circuit’s failure to treat the issue seriously is a face-slap to careful, thoughtful legal reasoning – no matter which side one may take on the federalism issue presented in this case.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute

“The majority in the Fourth Circuit opinion engages in a remarkable and breathtaking assertion of judicial authority, claiming that a law’s actual text and plain meaning are not relevant to a law’s constitutionality. 

“The panel selectively and misleadingly cites Supreme Court precedent to justify its view that judges can morph a ‘penalty’ into a ‘tax’ for constitutional purposes, despite the fact that all nine federal judges who have previously ruled in this case – whether Democrat or Republican, whether pro-mandate or against – unanimously agreed with Congress that the individual mandate is worded and designed as a penalty.

“Because Congress’ taxing power has few constitutional constraints, the Fourth Circuit is effectively claiming that Congress has unprecedented power, so long as that power is asserted and enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. The Fourth Circuit demonstrates how fundamentally Obamacare will transform the relationship between the federal government and individual Americans, if that law is allowed to stand.

Avik Roy
Policy Advisor, Health Care
The Heartland Institute

“The Fourth Circuit tied itself in knots to find a reason not to rule on the legal matter central to Virginia’s lawsuit: whether the federal government has unchecked power to command the populace or not.

“This issue will inevitably be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Until that time, continued uncertainty will rock small businesses and entrepreneurs struggling to adapt to President Obama’s brave new world of vague and conflicting regulations and subsidies. It’s time President Obama admitted the truth: that in the rush to pass his namesake health care law he created a muddle and a mistake.

“Obama should acknowledge that his law has not and will not solve the problem of rising health care costs, that his law requires government directed rationing of care, and that his law has and will continue to prevent firms from hiring. But failing that, at the very least, he should acknowledge the need for clarity and certainty, and support putting the matter before the Supreme Court at the earliest possible date. Until then, the American people will pay the price for his mistake.”

Benjamin Domenech
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Health Care News

“This ruling should have no effect whatsoever on the ultimate consideration by the Supreme Court. This ruling (by two Obama appointees and one Clinton appointee) is solely on whether the Commonwealth of Virginia had standing to bring the case. The appeals court was wrong on the merits of that issue, but it didn’t even look at the substance of Judge Hudson’s decision. It is another example of the blatant politicization of the federal bench under the current president.”

Greg Scandlen
Senior Fellow, Health Care
The Heartland Institute

“The decision shows that trying to overturn Obamacare in the courts is going be a long, drawn-out battle, at the very least. This goes to show there’s no assurance that people who want to see the health care bill overturned in the courts will get their way.”

Eli Lehrer
Director, Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
Vice President, DC Operations
The Heartland Institute

“The judicial panel has distorted the facts to avoid ruling on the merits. This is a temporary victory for the White House, but this meretricious ruling will likely be a footnote in the record regarding the individual mandate.”

Horace Cooper
Senior Fellow, Health Care and Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; Austin, Texas; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.