Appeals Court Approves Mandated Insurance; One Judge on Federal Panel Was Appointed by Bush

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the individual mandate in Democrats' health care law is constitutional, making it the highest court to approve the key part of President Obama's signature achievement.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the Obama administration's arguments in their totality, ruling that requiring every American to have insurance is a valid means to reach Congress' goal of lowering health care costs for everyone else.

The majority specifically rejected opponents' claims that the law falls outside of Congress' power because it regulates economic inactivity - the act of not buying insurance - rather than activity.

The text of the Commerce Clause does not acknowledge a constitutional distinction between activity and inactivity, and neither does the Supreme Court. Furthermore, far from regulating inactivity, the provision regulates active participation in the health care market, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. wrote in his opinion, joined by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton.

Judge Sutton, appointed by President George W. Bush, is the first Republican-nominated judge to uphold the health care law.

Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said that instantly transforms the fight over the law from a partisan political battle into a legal dispute.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton has done his job, and in doing so has transformed the debate over the Affordable Care Act and powerfully advanced the cause of judicial independence.

Although the panel was the first appeals court to rule on the constitutionality of key parts of the health care law, it won't be the last. Judge Sutton acknowledged that the ruling is utterly non-final in this case because it inevitably will be decided by the Supreme Court.

At root, the question before the courts is whether the Constitution's grant of power to regulate interstate commerce, found in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, is broad enough to encompass the health care law's requirement that all Americans have health insurance. …