Federal Judge Rules against Health Care Law

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Updated 4:01 p.m. ET

A federal judge ruled Monday that the Obama administration's health care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with 26 states that sued to block it.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson accepted without trial the states' argument that the new law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Attorneys for the administration had argued that the states did not have standing to challenge the law and that the case should be dismissed.

The next stop is likely the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal judges have upheld the insurance requirement, but a federal judge in Virginia also ruled the insurance provision violates the Constitution.

In his ruling, Vinson went further than the Virginia judge and declared the entire health care law unconstitutional.

"This is obviously a very difficult task. Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution," Vinson wrote in his 78-page ruling.

At issue was whether the government is reaching beyond its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.

Attorneys for President Barack Obama's administration had argued that the health care system was part of the interstate commerce system. They said the government can levy a tax penalty on Americans who decide not to purchase health insurance because all Americans are consumers of medical care.

But attorneys for the states said the administration was essentially coercing the states into participating in the overhaul by holding billions of Medicaid dollars hostage. The states also said the federal government is violating the Constitution by forcing a mandate on the states without providing money to pay for it.

Vinson said it would be a "radical departure" from existing law to give Congress power to order people to buy something, as opposed to merely regulating activity once someone has entered the economic stream, reports CBS News legal analyst Jan Crawford..

This is similar to the judge's ruling in the Virginia case - except that Vinson concluded he couldn't sever the unconstitutional individual mandate provision from the broader law, and so as a result the entire law must fall.

For practical purposes, without the individual mandate, the law won't work - there must be universal coverage to finance other provisions, like coverage for pre-existing conditions

Florida's former Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum filed the lawsuit just minutes after Obama signed the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill into law in March. He chose a court in Pensacola, one of Florida's most conservative cities. The nation's most influential small business lobby, the National Federation of Independent Business, also joined.

Six additional states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined Florida and 19 others in the legal action this month.

Other states that joined the suit are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

On Jan. 19, the Republican-controlled House voted 245-189 to repeal health care reform, although the repeal effort is not likely to succeed in the Senate - and less likely still to overcome President Obama's veto pen.

The party line vote capped a vigorous debate in which Republicans vilified the health care law and Democrats exalted it, reports CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes.

The most vocal critics of the law were the dozens of new Republican members who made repeal a top campaign promise.

"The people of Indiana sent me to Washington D.C. with very specific instructions: get the government out of our lives," said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana.

Democrats called the repeal vote pure politics.

"If the American people want us to work together, this is not the way to do it. If there is a problem with the bill we should tweak it!" said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York.
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