U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has become the third federal judge to rule that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, and that Congress was within its constitutional authority to regulate health insurance under the Commerce Caluse.
"It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not 'acting,' especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice," Kessler writes. "Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality."
Kessler, however, rejected the argument that Congress had the authority to enact the Affordable Care Act under the General Welfare Clause because Congress "did not intend [the law] to operate as a tax."
This is a profoundly reality-based ruling, coming from the Clinton appointed judge. This case was brought by the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, which argued that the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Kessler also rejected that argument, saying that "anyone who objects to having health care for religious reasons can choose to pay the penalty instead — as the lawsuit said all five plaintiffs plan to do."
The rulling is available here. Department of Justice spokesperson Tracy Schmaler provides this statement:
“We welcome this ruling, which marks the third time a court has reviewed the Affordable Care Act on the merits and upheld it as constitutional. This court found -- as two others have previously -- that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable measure for Congress to take in reforming our health care system. At the same time, trial courts in additional cases have dismissed numerous challenges to this law on jurisdictional and other grounds. The Department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation.”