Virginia — Health-care reform’s individual mandate, a core piece of Democrats’ crowning legislative achievement, is unconstitutional. So sayeth U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson, a Republican appointee who issued a ruling this afternoon in a lawsuit brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The ruling caught many experts off guard—the conventional wisdom at the launch of the numerous GOP-led state suits challenging the mandate was that they had little chance of succeeding. “Health-Care Suits ‘Unlikely to Succeed,’ Scholars Say” from Bloomberg News in March offers a representative example.
However, the law will ultimately end up being decided by higher courts, making today’s ruling only the first step in the process. Jack Balkin, a legal professor at Yale, said that health-care legislation was still likely to be upheld once it made its way up the courts—but that at least one judge ruling it unconstitutional was always a possibility.
“Both sides will spend a lot of time telling you this is a monumental event or not, but really it’s not going to be decided by the district courts,” he said. “It’s just one little skirmish in a very long battle.”