Wash Post Editorial: DC Circuit Ct. Decision on ACA “A Principled Ruling”

In health-care ruling, precedent trumped politics

By Editorial, Published: November 10

“PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN must be spinning in his grave,” exclaimed Maureen Martin of the Heartland Institute. A “Lazy Endorsement of Obamacare,” read the headline on an article on National Review Online. A “strange opinion,” concluded a Wall Street Journal editorial.

These reactions were to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate, a key provision of President Obama’s health-care plan that requires most individuals to purchase insurance coverage. For many conservatives, adding insult to the injury of the ruling, released Tuesday, was its author: Laurence H. Silberman, a senior judge on the federal appeals court.

A former official in the Nixon administration, a Reagan appointee to the bench and a Federalist Society favorite, Judge Silberman is one of the country’s most respected and conservative jurists. He penned — to the delight of the right — the D.C. Circuit’s 2007 decision that struck down the District’s gun laws, concluding that the Second Amendment recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms. We disagreed with Judge Silberman’s analysis but recognized the decision as a serious and thoughtful one. The Supreme Court largely adopted Judge Silberman’s rationale when it decided the matter. (Again wrongly, in our view.)

That this conservative luminary voted to uphold the constitutionality of the most controversial aspect of the president’s health-care proposal is welcome news — and not simply because we agree with this result.

Judges should never decide a case based on personal beliefs or political preferences. Yet as challenges to the health-care law made their way through the courts, a disturbing pattern emerged: Democratic-appointed trial judges were more likely to uphold the law than their Republican-appointed counterparts were. Although judges on the courts of appeals were less predictable, the pattern remained. The conclusion drawn by some: Judges were nothing more than politicians in robes. Judge Silberman’s principled ruling is an emphatic and laudable repudiation of that notion.

The opinion applies long-standing Supreme Court precedent to conclude that the Constitution gives the federal government broad authority to regulate interstate commerce. It rightly concludes that the national health-care market and the individual mandate fit within this authority. Judge Silberman was joined in the majority by Senior Judge Harry T. Edwards, a Carter appointee. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was named to the bench by President George W. Bush, dissented.

It would be hard to imagine a Sen. Silberman voting for a sweeping government health-care mandate. But Judge Silberman took seriously his obligation to allow only the Constitution and case law to dictate the result — even if it clashes with his personal political views.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

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