A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a key provision in President Obama's healthcare reform is unconstitutional.
The Virginia Attorney General challenged the Affordable Care Act in U.S. district court, arguing Congress lacked authority under the constitution to require all Americans to buy health insurance. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson agreed.
In his ruling he wrote "the unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the minimum essential coverage provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers."
The ruling is the first significant legal setback for the administration's healthcare plan. But because this part of the law wouldn’t go into effect until 2014, the judge did not stop it from moving forward.
Parts of the healthcare law already are already in effect and the White House didn’t seem defeated by this decision.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "Our belief is that the healthcare act will go forward and that it is constitutional, that it improves people’s lives and particularly this is the basis the provision allows us to finally address the lingering discrimination against those who have pre-existing conditions."
Judge Hudson, a republican appointed by George W. Bush, is the first judge to rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
“Two courts have affirmed the law and one has found it unconstitutional, so there appears there are some differences,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL
There are more than 20 other legal challenges, one to be heard this week in Florida. These cases are just the opening volleys; the real battle lies ahead in the Supreme Court.
Following the ruling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying "in Congress, we will stand firm against attempts to roll back the law."