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OTHER OPINION: COURTS

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There is one line in Monday's ruling by a federal judge invalidating a key part of the health-care law that no one would dispute: "The final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court." Indeed, the Supreme Court will be the final arbiter of whether the individual mandate - the requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty - exceeds Congress' constitutional authority. The mandate, along with other key pieces of the statute, is not set to take effect until 2014, but the earlier a definitive ruling on the law's constitutionality comes, the better off the country will be.

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The decision, by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, upheld the state of Virginia's challenge to the health-care law. Splitting with two other federal district judges who have considered the issue, Judge Hudson found that the individual mandate could not be justified under either the power to regulate interstate commerce or the power to tax. It is certainly true, as Judge Hudson noted, that the Constitution's commerce clause has never been interpreted to extend to a decision not to purchase a product - in this case, health insurance. Yet health care presents an extraordinary, perhaps unique, circumstance that we believe puts the individual mandate within the realm of congressional powers. As the Obama administration argued in defending the law, "No person can guarantee that he will divorce himself entirely from the market for health-care services." Even inaction, in this situation, affects economic activity and therefore interstate commerce.

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Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2010 and works as a online reporter, content editor and staff writer. She is a world traveler, accused idealist and California native now braving the winters of Central Minnesota. She believes in the power of human resolve and hopes to be part of something that makes history by bringing an end to injustice in the world. Sarah has worked as a criminal background researcher, high school civics teacher, grant writer, and contributing writer with Causecast.org — tackling every issue from global poverty to bio-degradable bicycles. Her favorite thing about living in Minnesota is July. Sarah left the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2014.
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