Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

McCollum's lawsuit against Obamacare raises legitimate questions

The score is now 2 to 1.

Two judges have said the federal health care law is constitutional. This week in Virginia, a third judge ruled it was unconstitutional.

This morning in Pensacola, Florida and 19 other states will go before yet a fourth federal judge with yet another challenge to the law.

No matter what, everybody expects the whole thing to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Still, this week's ruling in Virginia proved that the case is not a slam-dunk either way — and it is already a partial vindication for our state's Republican attorney general, Bill McCollum.

When McCollum sued last March to block the health care law, quite naturally, many Democrats said it was only a political stunt meant to help his race for governor (which he later lost anyway).

Dan Gelber, then a Democratic candidate for attorney general, called McCollum's lawsuit a "political frolic" and "an ideological escapade" that would be thrown out of court.

Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, a Democratic House member from South Florida and a fixture on cable-TV news, called the lawsuit "a waste of taxpayer money."

And yet, the score today is 2 to 1.

In other words, there is at least one sitting U.S. district judge in the country (so far) who agrees the law is unconstitutional.

Maybe he is a nut, and the other two are right. Or maybe he is the smart cookie and the other two are wrong.

No matter what, there is a federal court ruling on the books that goes the other way. As my country cousins used to say, that's not nothin'.

Here is the main issue in the case:

Can Congress force Americans to get health coverage and punish us if we don't?

The fact is that Congress can't just pass any durn-tootin' law that it wants. Everybody agrees on that.

Congress only has certain powers. They are laid out in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

One of these powers is to regulate "interstate commerce." Is that what this health care law does?

Critics like McCollum say Congress is trying to punish Americans for doing nothing. Hey, you want to live your life without health insurance, that's your business — and it sure as heck ain't "interstate commerce."

The opposing argument is that Americans who don't get health coverage aren't really "doing nothing." They are just putting off the day that they show up at the emergency room, or go on Medicare or Medicaid, and then become a burden on society, paid for by taxpayers across the nation.

So by this argument, Americans without coverage are making a decision that affects everybody else after all. Congress is entitled to bring them into the system now.

Now, who is right? Two judges say one thing; a third says another. Personally, I buy the argument that everybody comes into the system sooner or later, so it's legit to make 'em come in sooner. Hey, we all have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes from the get-go.

But I am not a federal district judge, and besides, I still think McCollum raises a legitimate question. And I most definitely am not John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito or any other U.S. Supreme Court justice. If you want to predict breezily that they are gonna uphold this law, you go right ahead.

McCollum's lawsuit against Obamacare raises legitimate questions 12/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 4:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Entrance lanes close on eastbound I-4 in Plant City following semi crash


    An eastbound entrance lane to Interstate 4 is blocked Tuesday morning following a semi crash, according to broadcast reports.

  2. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  3. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

    Jose De Leon follows through in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, on May 29, 2017.
  4. Resignation of communications director Dubke could signal more changes within White House staff


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, in the first of what could be a series of changes to President Trump's senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  5. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]