The judge who ruled the Obama administration’s health care overhaul unconstitutional questioned whether the government was reaching beyond its power by requiring citizens to buy health insurance because everyone needs medical care.
Under that logic, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said, the government could force Americans to buy clothes or food. Vinson, who sided with 26 states fighting the much-maligned measure, revealed his own health care story during arguments several weeks ago, an example that helped shed light on his ruling Monday.
When Vinson was a law student and his wife gave birth to their first child, he paid a doctor in cash.
“It amounted to about $100 a pound,” the 70-year-old jurist joked in December.
Vinson, an ex-Navy pilot appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, is known for maintaining control of his courtroom while letting everyone have their say. He loves camellia flowers and has handled cases from abortion clinic bombings to veterans rights to racial discrimination.
“I think being a former Navy officer, he is used to being in control of things but not being a tyrant,” said attorney Bud Day, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War who has tried numerous cases in front of Vinson.
The judge’s ruling produced an even split in federal court decisions so far on the health care law, mirroring enduring divisions among the public. Two judges had previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees. A Republican appointee in Virginia had ruled against it.
The Justice Department quickly announced it would appeal, and administration officials declared that for now the federal government and the states would proceed without interruption to carry out the law. It seemed evident that only the U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a final verdict on Obama’s historic expansion of health insurance coverage.
On Capitol Hill, Republican opponents of the law pledged to redouble pressure for a repeal vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate following House action last month. Nearly all of the states that brought suit in Vinson’s court have GOP attorneys general or governors. More…