A federal judge in Florida issued some stern criticism aimed at the Obama Administration today, after the Justice Department tried to bog down his decision ruling all of the president's health care overhaul unconstitutional.
District Judge Roger Vinson told administration attorneys they have seven days to appeal his decision. If they don't meet that deadline, Vinson said the states can then consider the law invalid.
Florida and 25 states sued to block the law, and Vinson ruled on Jan. 31 that the entire law was unconstituitional. Instead of appealing the ruling, however, the administration waited two and one-half weeks to file for a clarification, asking if his ruling meant amounted to a "stay" of the law.
“The conspicuous absence of a severability clause --- which is ordinarily included in complex legislation as a matter of routine --- could be viewed as strong evidence that Congress recognized that the Act could not operate as intended if the individual mandate was eventually struck down by the courts,” Vinson wrote in his remarks Thursday.
In the meantime, Vinson did issue a stay of his ruling pending the administration's appeal to the 11th Circuit -- which must be "expedited," according to his statement. In essence, then, states must continue implementing the president's health care overhaul even though he has declared it unconstitutional.
Lyle Dennison at SCOTUSblog explains the latest ruling:
A Florida federal judge who struck down all of the new federal health care law ordered the Obama Administration on Thursday to stop enforcing any part of the 2,700 page statute — but then immediately put his ruling on hold on condition that the Administration move quickly to appeal to a higher court — a federal appeals court or the Supreme Court. [...]
Although saying that he thought his decision on Jan. 31 nullifying the law was clear enough, the judge did acknowledge that some confusion has arisen around the country about whether he intended to block all parts of the law — including provisions already in effect. He thus summarized what he had ruled earlier, then declared — as he had not done before — that his decision was the binding equivalent of an order totally blocking enforcement.
“The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be,” Vinson said. “And yet, it has been more than one month from the entry of my order and judgment and still the defendants have not filed their notice of appeal.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.