TPM News

Legal experts who support President Obama's health care law spoke to reporters Monday afternoon to criticize a far-reaching opinion by Florida federal district court judge Roger Vinson that the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional -- and that the entire law must therefore be voided.

"This is a decision that has such radical implications that I'm confident it will be overturned," said former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger.

In addition to declaring the mandate unconstitutional, Vinson declined to "sever" it from the rest of the law, and instead held that the entire law out should be thrown out. That goes far beyond standard practice, under which courts tend to defer to Congress and sever only the provisions of law that they find unconstitutional -- even if Congress didn't include a "severability clause" in the legislation.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday announced the results of an undercover investigation into a gun show in Arizona -- and that those results show just how simple it is to buy a gun there with minimal oversight.

According to the the Gun Show Undercover: Arizona report, undercover investigators successfully bought guns after telling unlicensed dealers, "I probably couldn't pass a background check." The investigation took place January 23 at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Phoenix.

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While none of the telecom giants appeared to be thrilled with the net neutrality regulations passed last month, only Verizon and Metro PCS have taken a swing, challenging the FCC. But are the other cellular giants -- AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile -- just letting Verizon take the lead, or are the backing net neutrality?

Both, and neither, according to various sources: they would apparently rather spend their money fighting issues they see as more key to their success, and may see their acceptance of the popular initiative as a competitive advantage.

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While none of the telecom giants appeared to be thrilled with the net neutrality regulations passed last month, only Verizon and Metro PCS have taken a swing, challenging the FCC. But are the other cellular giants -- AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile -- just letting Verizon take the lead, or are the backing net neutrality?

Both, and neither, according to various sources: they would apparently rather spend their money fighting issues they see as more key to their success, and may see their acceptance of the popular initiative as a competitive advantage.

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Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) told a reporter for a newspaper in his home state that political realities kept House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) from shutting down the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which he said would begin an investigation "out of the National Enquirer."

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When it comes to the developing international crisis in Egypt, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's with the White House all the way.

"The White House is totally on top of this and I'm totally supportive of them," Reid told reporters on a conference call today.

Like Obama, Reid stopped short of calling for embattled Egyptian president and longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak to step down from power -- as the protesters want -- though he urged the Egyptian regime to respect the "universal rights" of its citizens to speech and protest. He said he hopes Mubarak "will not allow" the protesters to be subject to violent reprisals from the army and national police forces.

Reid called for an "orderly transition to democracy in Egypt."

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For most people, an "activist judge" is one whose opinions they don't agree with. But Judge Vinson's ruling today -- that the entire health care law must be voided because he found one provision unconstitutional -- really meets an indisputable definition of "activist."

Vinson tossed the entire thing because it lacked a "severability clause," which would have compartmentalized the legislation itself and forced judges to weigh individual sections on their own merits. But the standard is not that an unseverable law should be stricken in its entirety. Noted liberal activist judge John Roberts recently struck a sole provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley law, which likewise lacks a severability clause.

"We agree with the Government that the unconsti­tutional tenure provisions are severable from the remain­der of the statute," he wrote.

Simply ruling against the mandate puts any judge on the opposite side of the vast majority of expert legal opinion. But given just such ruling, a less "activist" judge could have stricken just the mandate, along with directly relevant provisions -- like guaranteed issue and the ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Vinson decided instead to "legislate from the bench" and scrap the subsidies, regulations, marketplaces, and other goodies the law creates that really have nothing to do with the mandate as well.

It's new frontiers in partisan judging.

Expect the talk of Jon Huntsman For President to reach a fever pitch this week. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the briefing today that Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah, will be leaving his current job as Ambassador to China soon. That clears the way for the political moderate to mount a run for White House next year, as many in Washington expect he will.

Gibbs told reporters that Huntsman is expected to step down from his administration post in the near future. But he said he had no idea of what Huntsman will do next.

"I want to be clear on this: I've talked to several people in the building and I have not heard any of them say that they know what the future holds for Ambassador Huntsman," Gibbs said, according to The Hill.

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A federal district court judge in Florida ruled today that a key provision in the new health care law is unconstitutional, and that the entire law must be voided.

Roger Vinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee, agreed with the 26 state-government plaintiffs that Congress exceeded its authority by passing a law penalizing individuals who do not have health insurance.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate," Vinson writes. "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void."

[Emphasis added]

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