Federal Judge Rules Against Health Reform

| Mon Dec. 13, 2010 1:36 PM EST

A federal judge has ruled against the Democrats' health care law, agreeing with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's contention that the law's requirement that Americans purchase health insurance (the so-called "individual mandate") is unconstitutional.

It's the first court ruling against Obama's sweeping health reform law. In his ruling, Henry Hudson, a George W. Bush-appointed district judge, said the individual mandate went beyond the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution. Compelling people to enter a commercial market, Hudson wrote, was tantamount to "invit[ing] unbridled exercise of federal police powers." He continued: "At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance—or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage—it's about an individual's right to choose to participate." But the judge also denied Virginia's request to prevent the entire law from being implemented. Instead, he limited the scope of his ruling to the mandate.

Though the ruling is a significant setback for health reform, it's only the latest legal development: two other federal courts have ruled in favor of the law, and another ruling is expected this Thursday. All these rulings are precursors to a highly anticipated Supreme Court battle. That fight could determine not only the fate of health reform, but also the political futures of the law's major supporters and detractors.

For the moment, at least, it's an unequivocal victory for Ken Cuccinelli, the conservative crusader and grassroots hero who called the challenge to health-care reform "a major priority for the Tea Party in Virginia."