A federal judge in Florida dealt President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul another legal blow Monday, ruling the entire law is unconstitutional because of a requirement in the legislation that Americans get health insurance starting in 2014.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s widely anticipated decision goes beyond a separate ruling by a federal judge in Virginia who last year ruled only that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional.
In separate lawsuits, two other federal courts have ruled that the law and its insurance mandate are permissible under the so-called Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
The divided opinions set the stage for a potentially landmark constitutional debate in the higher courts, with a final decision expected in the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps as soon as next year.
Vinson, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, signaled for months that he would back the challenge to the law filed by Florida’s Republican attorney general and joined by 25 other states. And in his ruling Monday, he said he had no choice but to invalidate the law.