Why Health Care Ruling Not a Game-Ender


Publish Date:
February 2, 2011
Publication Title:
CNN Opinion
Op-Ed or Opinion Piece
  • David F.¬†Engstrom, Why Health Care Ruling Not a Game-Ender, CNN Opinion, February 2, 2011.


The debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act once more reached a fever pitch on Monday when U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson issued an order declaring the law unconstitutional.

In baseball terms, the game is now tied at two runs apiece, with a pair of trial court rulings in favor and a pair against. But Vinson’s ruling was more forceful than the earlier court ruling that found a constitutional violation: Vinson’s declared the act void in its entirety. And this has some people arguing it is a game-ending home run, requiring the Obama administration to halt implementation immediately.

In this view, Vinson’s sweeping ruling means the law is, in the words of David Rivkin — the attorney and former Justice Department official representing the 26 states challenging the law — “dead” throughout much of the country.

That’s not the case — and Rivkin should know better. The fact that the court only “declared” the act unconstitutional is, legally speaking, highly relevant here. In entering judgment this way, Vinson expressly refused to enter an injunction — that is, he declined to command the Obama administration to take any particular action.