Judge strikes down healthcare reform law___________________________________________________________________________
(Reuters) - A federal judge in Florida struck down President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare overhaul as unconstitutional on Monday in the biggest legal challenge yet to federal authority to enact the law.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the reform law's so-called individual mandate went too far in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.
"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void," he wrote, "This has been a difficult decision to reach and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications."
Referring to a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Vinson sided with governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans, in declaring the Obama healthcare reform unconstitutional.
"Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution," Vinson, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, ruled.
The Obama administration said it would appeal Vinson's ruling and believed it would prevail on a highly politicized issue likely to end up at the Supreme Court.
"We strongly disagree with the court's ruling today and continue to believe -- as other federal courts have found -- that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
A White House official told reporters the administration planned to continue with implementation of the law.
"We'll continue to operate as we have previously and suspect that the states will do the same," said the senior administration official, who asked not to be named.
"Obviously this case will be appealed ... and so implementation would proceed apace ... This is not the last word by any means," the official said.
But the fact that the judge did not issue a stay of his ruling pending appeal by the government could threaten the application of many of the provisions of the healthcare law.
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