Judges seem skeptical of health care law challenge that centers on origin
WASHINGTON — The seemingly endless legal war over health care found an esoteric new front on Thursday, as appellate judges considered where certain bills should originate.
Amid references to various 18th-century Founding Fathers, some of them obscure, skeptical-sounding judges weighed claims that the Affordable Care Act's so-called individual mandate is invalid because it violates an under-appreciated part of the Constitution called the Origination Clause.
The clause says all bills “for raising revenue” must originate in the House of Representatives. The case pressed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, based in Sacramento, is that the health care legislation was a revenue-raising measure that effectively started in the Senate.
“Origination Clause cases,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur acknowledged, “are very rare.”
Practically speaking, the challenge heard for 30 minutes before a packed fifth-floor courtroom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit may prove a long shot. The Supreme Court upheld the law's individual mandate nearly two years ago, and in the meantime more than 8.1 million U.S. residents have enrolled through the various health insurance exchanges. Legal theories aside, judges might think hard about trying to unwind that.
All three of the judges hearing the case were Democratic appointees, and President Obama recently named two of them to the court. Their questions and observations suggested sympathy for the administration's position, including references to the congressional health care debate itself.
“It didn't occur to any House member to raise an (Origination Clause) objection,” noted Judge Robert L. Wilkins, one of the Obama nominees.
Judge Judith W. Rogers added that “no one viewed this as a bill to raise revenues” when the Senate passed what's formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If the three-judge panel agrees that the Senate did not originate a revenue-raising bill, the conservative challenge fails.
As a thought provoker and show of courthouse judo, though, the case is drawing national attention.
Along with others, the foundation originally sued to block the individual mandate as a violation of the Constitution's Commerce Clause. The mandate requires most individuals to buy insurance or pay a fee, a requirement that the Supreme Court majority agreed in 2012 exceeded Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 8 shot to death, including gunman, in Missouri rampage
- FCC plays net traffic cop
- Heavy snow cuts power, snarls travel across South
- Devoted California couple dies within 5 hours of each other
- Bomb plot trial ends in Saudi’s conviction
- Vote puts federal prosecutor Lynch closer to Attorney General’s Office
- White House won’t snub pro-Israel lobby
- Impasse over funding for Department of Homeland Security likely will go to wire
- French bulldog joins top 10 list in U.S.
- Loose llamas corralled on Arizona street
- Foreign government gifts to family charity present candidacy hurdle for Hillary Clinton