The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday struck down parts of the health-care reform law Democrats passed last year, including the law’s “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance that the right hates so much. Conservatives are already calling this “a great day for liberty.” But Friday’s ruling has perhaps only one major, practical consequence.
Before Friday, there was a fair chance that appeals judges would all ultimately agree that the law is constitutional, individual mandate and all, once the case moved into the rarefied chambers of the circuit courts. In that scenario, the states challenging the law would have appealed to the Supreme Court. Yet, in the face of appeals-court unanimity, it’s entirely likely that the high court would have declined to hear the case, allowing the circuit-court rulings to stand.
Now, there’s discord among circuit courts. In June, the 6th Circuit deemed the law’s individual mandate constitutional. Unless the Justice Department asks the full 11th Circuit to consider the issue, in which case Friday’s three-judge ruling might not stand, the 11th Circuit and the 6th Circuit will disagree. So, the real bottom line on Friday’s news is that the legal argument over the health-care law will almost certainly hinge on a showdown before the Nine, after all. Let the high court handicapping begin.