A George W. Bush-appointee and up-and-coming conservative jurist joined a Democrat to uphold the constitutionality of the healthcare law and its individual mandate to purchase health insurance today, giving the Obama administration its first bipartisan legal victory on the issue.
“We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause and therefore AFFIRM the decision of the district court,” reads the ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“By regulating the practice of self-insuring for the cost of health care delivery, the minimum coverage provision is facially constitutional under the Commerce Clause for two independent reasons. First, the provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce. In addition, Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance.”
This is the first time a decision on the law has not broken down explicitly along partisan lines. Judge Boyce F. Martin, appointed by Jimmy Carter, wrote the majority opinion, and was, crucially, joined by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a conservative who clerked with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I do think that’s the headline from this decision,” said Jamal Greene, professor of law at Columbia University. “Sutton is not just a garden variety Republican. He’s a conservative legal star. The fact that he came out in favor is a big deal.”
Separate challenges to the law have yet to be ruled on by the appellate courts, and the issue is likely to be decided definitively in the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year.