Health Care Law Legal Gymnastics: Behind The White House Strategy

By Kristina

Mar 1, 2011 12:15pm

ABC News Ariane de Voge reports:

Federal Judge Roger Vinson  is poised to issue an order this week clarifying the ruling he made on January 31, 2011 that struck down the entire health care law.

Why does he need to clarify?

Because the Obama administration argues it isn’t sure whether Vinson’s ruling was meant to halt the implementation of  provisions of the law currently in effect.  

Vinson found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional, and he said that the rest of the law could not stand without the mandate, but he declined to impose an injunction which would have immediately blocked the enforcement of the law. Instead he said his ruling was the “functional equivalent of an injunction.”

The administration mulled the ruling for several days and then decided it would file a “motion to clarify” asking the Judge what he meant. The administration’s brief drips with disdain for the ruling:

“The Court’s declaratory judgment potentially implicates hundreds of provisions of the Act and, if it were interpreted to apply to programs currently in effect, duties currently in force, taxes currently being collected, and tax credits that may be owed at this time or in the near future, would create substantial uncertainty.”

It’s all a bit of a legal gymnastics because if the administration gets an adverse ruling from Vinson it will immediately appeal to the 11th circuit.  It’s highly likely that the 11th circuit would grant a stay.

But what parts of the law currently in effect are at issue? The White House says in a blog: “seniors will pay higher prices for their prescription drugs and small businesses will pay higher taxes because small business tax credits would be eliminated. And the new provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying, capping or limiting your care would be wiped away.”

Meanwhile , the State of Florida, which brought the challenge along with 25 other States, says the administration is playing games: finding a platform to criticize the judge’s ruling when it could have simply immediately asked for a stay.

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