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White House vows to implement health care reform, despite judge’s ruling

The Justice Department says it will appeal US District Judge Roger Vinson’s decision, which declared the health-care reform law unconstitutional and void in its entirety.

By Staff writer / January 31, 2011

Senior US District Judge Roger Vinson discusses the merits of increasing the wage scales for federal judges in Pensacola, Fla., in this May 2, 2007, photo. Vinson declared the Obama administration's health care reform unconstitutional Monday.

Tony Giberson/The Pensacola News Journal/AP/File

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Senior administration officials vowed on Monday to continue with the full implementation of President Obama’s health-care reform law despite a federal judge’s decision declaring the law unconstitutional and void in its entirety.

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“This is not the last word by any means,” a White House official told reporters in a background briefing. “We are quite confident it won’t stand.”

The Justice Department issued a statement saying it intends to appeal the decision. “We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” the statement says in part.

The comments came in reaction to a 78-page decision released Monday by US District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla. The judge ruled that Congress exceeded its power under the Constitution’s commerce clause when it required all Americans to purchase health insurance as part of the president’s health-care reform law.

The judge also declared the entire law must be struck down, because Congress eliminated a provision that would have allowed a judge to invalidate only part of the law while preserving the rest of it.

Fourth federal judge to rule on law

Judge Vinson is the second federal judge to declare a key portion of the Obama health-care reform law unconstitutional. Two other federal judges have upheld the constitutionality of the law.

Administration officials and supporters of the health-care reform law immediately criticized Vinson’s ruling. “This case will be viewed as an outlier,” one administration official said.

Democratic House leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who once scoffed at suggestions that the reform bill might be unconstitutional, stressed that Monday’s ruling was only “one of many.”

“We strongly believe that health reform is constitutional and is consistent with longstanding precedents of the Supreme Court,” she said.

Conservatives rejoice

Others saw Vinson’s ruling as vindication of a more robust view of constitutional limits to federal power. “Nancy Pelosi has her answer: yes, we’re serious about the Constitution,” said Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network.

House Speaker John Boehner praised Vinson’s decision. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing you to buy health insurance and punishing you if you don’t,” he said.

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