For the third time in five weeks, the Obama administration’s legal point man for defending the president’s health care overhaul will walk into a federal appellate courtroom Wednesday to defend the controversial measure as an appropriate and proper exercise of the government’s power.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal has steadfastly argued the law, passed in March 2010, is a necessary and reasonable response to halt the increasing costs of medical care despite claims by 26 state governments and the largest small-business group in the nation that the law’s requirements are unconstitutional.
Katyal is expected to tell three judges of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta that the law is a valid exercise of congressional power to regulate commerce and tax.
He’ll try to convince the court that U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson’s thorough repudiation of the law was incorrect. That January ruling striking down the entire law energized its detractors, who agree with Vinson’s conclusion that the provision requiring all Americans to obtain health insurance, known as the individual mandate, is an impermissible attempt by lawmakers to regulate people’s lives.
“In enacting this provision, Congress made detailed findings establishing a foundation for the exercise of its commerce power,” Katyal wrote in his brief to the court. He went on to write that Vinson’s ruling “impermissibly substituted (his) own judgment for that of the elected branches in declaring that an insurance requirement cannot be imposed until people actually seek medical care.”
Wednesday’s case originated in Florida and was brought by 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals. The plaintiffs argue the powers granted to the government under the Commerce Clause are limited to the regulation of interstate activity. Former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the states, says the law pushes the government’s constitutional powers too far by trying to regulate inactivity.