Fed. judge strikes down health care reform law

PENSACOLA, FL (RNN) - A Florida judge struck down key parts of the sweeping health care legislation passed last year under President Barack Obama's leadership.

District Judge Roger Vinson dismissed key provisions of the legislation, the most important of which requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face government sanctions and fines.

Vinson ruled the so-called "individual mandate" portion unconstitutional.

Florida joined 25 other states - including Alabama - in suing the federal government last spring to dismiss the legislation. In his ruling, Vinson said Congress overreached when it passed the massive legislation. The new rules are expected to take effect in 2014.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeds the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate," Vinson said. "That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system."

The Patent Protection and Affordability Care Act has been hotly opposed by Republicans.

"This ruling confirms what Americans have been saying for months: The health spending bill is a massive overreach and Democrats 'exceeded the bounds' of Congressional authority under the Constitution in passing the law with the individual mandate," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a news release.

The move gives Republicans ammunition to continue their fight for repeal in Congress. A battle before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected.

"Rather than penalizing Americans if they don't buy a particular product that Washington decides is best, we should repeal this health spending bill and replace it with commonsense reforms that will actually lower costs, prevent unsustainable entitlement promises and make it easier for employers to start hiring again," McConnell said.

McConnell said he began the process last week to get the House-passed repeal bill on the Senate calendar for a vote by using Rule 14. Senate Republicans also filed an amicus brief in the case on Nov. 18, 2010.

"Indeed, in more than 200 years of debate as to the proper scope of the Commerce Power, the Supreme Court has never suggested that the Commerce Power allows Congress to impose affirmative obligations on passive individuals, or to punish individuals for failing to purchase a particular product," the brief said.

The Florida ruling is just the latest battle before the courts in an attempt to strike down the legislation.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia also ruled that the Minimal Essential Coverage provision is unconstitutional because it forces an individual to purchase health insurance or face a penalty.

In his ruling, Hudson said Congress cannot force an individual to engage in a private commercial transaction.

The U.S. court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond announced last week it would expedite a hearing in the case, tentatively scheduled for some time between May 3 and 10.

"Right now, there is a great deal of uncertainty for states, individual and businesses. Major decisions are already to be made, and money is already being spent to comply with a lay that may not be around two years from now," said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a statement. "We need this suit resolved as quickly as possible for the good of our citizens and our economy."

Cuccinelli said he has not yet decided whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case directly and bypass the Fourth Circuit altogether.

According to the Obama administration's own arguments in the Virginia case, the mandatory purchase provision is the bedrock of the healthcare law.

Vinson seemed to agree in his ruling.

"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void," he said.

Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved. CNN contributed to this report.