Jonathan Cohn

BREAKING Judge Gives Obamacare Green Light, for Now

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Judge Roger Vison, the federal judge in Florida who ruled the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, has just granted the Obama Administration's request to clarify his ruling. And he's done so in a way that will, apparently, allow the Administration to keep implementing the law. His singular requirement: That the administration file its appeal, to the Circuit Court, within the next seven days.

I've only skimmed the ruling and, again, I'm not a lawyer. But it appears that Vinson granted what amounts to a stay of his ruling primarily on two grounds. One is that the Administration has a reasonably good chance of winning this case, if and when it finally gets to the Supreme Court:

I cannot say that the defendants do not have a likelihood of success on appeal. They do. And so do the plaintiffs. Although I strongly believe that expanding the commerce power to permit Congress to regulate and mandate mental decisions not to purchase health insurance (or any other product or service) would emasculate much of the rest of the Constitution and effectively remove all limitations on the power of the federal government, I recognize that others believe otherwise. The individual mandate has raised some novel issues regarding the Constitutional role of the federal government about which reasonable and intelligent people (and reasonable and intelligent jurists) can disagree.

In addition, Vinson says, the potential harm of stopping implementation (in the event that the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the law) outweighs, slightly, the potential harm of allowing implementation to go ahead (in the event that the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down the law). He also notes that stopping implementation would create confusion in a state like Michigan, where a different federal judge has ruled the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

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