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Third Federal Judge Upholds Affordable Care Act

By Ian Millhiser  

"Third Federal Judge Upholds Affordable Care Act"

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Yesterday, Judge Gladys Kessler became the third federal judge to uphold the landmark Affordable Care Act. In a scholarly 64 page opinion, Kessler emphasizes that, no matter how skilled the law’s opponents may be in crafting talking points, political rhetoric does not have the power to rewrite the Constitution:

It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality. [...]

The crux of Plaintiffs’ arguments is that § 1501 is an unprecedented attempt by Congress to regulate individual behavior, and therefore threatens individuals’ freedom of choice. Appealing as this emotionally charged argument may sound, the ACA is not as unprecedented as Plaintiffs claim: as already discussed, Congress’s broad power to regulate individual behavior under the Commerce Clause is well established.

Kessler’s opinion also contrasts sharply with Judge Roger Vinson’s recent opinion striking down the same law. Vinson relies heavily on law review articles by right-wing scholars and discusses a number of older, discredited decisions at length. Kessler, however, takes the much more orthodox approach of actually following binding Supreme Court decisions that require her to uphold the law. Kessler’s opinion also differs from Vinson’s in that it is not riddled with easily disprovable factual and legal errors.

Igor Volsky has more coverage at The Wonk Room.

‹ The WonkLine: February 23, 2011

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