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Judge declares Obama health-care law 'void' in its entirety

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The decision stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Florida and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of the health-care reform law. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted 245 to 189 to repeal the law. But the Senate is not expected to follow suit, and President Obama would almost certainly veto any repeal law passed by Congress.

Meanwhile, court challenges are continuing.

The central question in the case was whether Congress has the power to order Americans to purchase a private product or service.

The Constitution’s commerce clause provides the authority for Congress to “regulate commerce … among the several states.” But does the power to pass regulations affecting interstate commerce authorize a federal order that Americans must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty?

During a Dec. 16 hearing in Pensacola, Fla., Vinson questioned whether Congress could force the nation to eat broccoli or to buy shoes. Others have questioned whether federal lawmakers have the authority to order citizens to buy a particular brand of car as a form of economic stimulus.

Lawyers defending the health-care statute say there is a significant difference between broccoli and health insurance. If no one eats their broccoli the government will not be forced to pick up the tab, they say. In contrast, the individual mandate is a way to regulate the costs of health-insurance across the country, they say.

Inactivity as economic activity

Vinson disagreed. He said under the commerce clause, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, Congress is empowered to regulate economic activity, but not inactivity.

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