(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- In a harshly worded opinion, Judge Roger Vinson, the Florida federal judge who struck down the entire health care law in January, gave the Obama administration seven days from Thursday to appeal his ruling with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Vinson issued the 20-page ruling Thursday after the Obama administration had asked him to clarify his original opinion and tell the government whether his ruling was meant to strike down provisions of the law currently in effect.
In the ruling, Vinson is critical of Justice Department lawyers for waiting nearly two weeks before filing a “motion to clarify.”
“While I believe that my order was as clear and unambiguous as it could be,” Vinson wrote, “it is possible that the defendants may have perhaps been confused or misunderstood its import.”
He reiterated his finding that the Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the individual mandate and said that because the mandate was unseverable from the rest of the act, the entire legislation was void. He said that his order applied to all parts of the law, including those provisions currently in effect.
He said he had expected the government lawyers to immediately seek a stay of the ruling.
“It was not expected” he wrote, “that they would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the Act, and only then file a belated motion to 'clarify.'”
Legal experts say the chances are high that the appeals court will grant the administration’s motion to stay Vinson’s ruling pending appeal.
Vinson acknowledged the issue will ultimately end up before the Supreme Court and he said parties should move with haste. “The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court," he wrote, “the better off the entire nation will be.”
DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler offered this response:
“We appreciate the court's recognition of the enormous disruption that would have resulted if implementation of the Affordable Care Act was abruptly halted. We welcome the court's granting of a stay to allow the current programs and consumer protections, including tax credits to small business and millions of dollars in federal grants to help states with health care costs, to continue pending our appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.
“We strongly disagree with the district court’s underlying ruling in this case and continue to believe – as three federal courts have found – that this law is constitutional. There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing the Affordable Care Act and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”
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