As we reported on February 1, Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson issued an opinion in the multi-state Attorneys General lawsuit on January 31, declaring the health care law unconstitutional. Since the ruling came out, many question whether any further activities associated with implementing the law should proceed. Others conclude the states should move “full steam ahead” in spite of Judge Vinson’s order, citing contrary rulings in other cases. But what does the LAW require?
Judge Vinson’s decision on the plaintiffs’ (the States’) request for an injunction in the case explains (found on page 75):
The last issue to be resolved is the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief enjoining implementation of the Act, which can be disposed of very quickly.
Injunctive relief is an ‘extraordinary’ [Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 312, 102 S. Ct. 1798, 72 L. Ed. 2d 91 (1982)], and 'drastic' remedy [Aaron v. S.E.C., 446 U.S. 680, 703, 100 S. Ct. 1945, 64 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1980) (Burger, J., concurring)]. It is even more so when the party to be enjoined is the federal government, for there is a long-standing presumption 'that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.' See Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1985) ('declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court') (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added).
There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary."
On Thursday, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell announced that Alaska would do nothing further to implement the health care law in his state. He cites a deadline for applying for federal grants to set up the insurance exchanges in preparation for implementation of the law as the event that prompted his decision to abide by the January 31 Vinson ruling.
Governor Parnell was a guest on Greta Van Sustern's show on Thursday evening via phone:
Nebraska's Governor, Dave Heineman, appeared on Greta's show on February 9, 2011. As a Nebraskan who believes that the health care law is an abomination, I am utterly befuddled by my Governor's statements for many reasons.
Judge Vinson's ruling provided a huge opening for all States to cease any further steps to implement the law. Our Governor's response to the opening was to send a letter requesting changes to the law. I question just what changes the Governor thinks the law requires. Which parts of the law does the Governor think are worth keeping? Did he hope to accomplish anything by signing off on the letter -- he didn't even write it himself -- other than an opportunity to appear on television to talk about it? Does this response square with previous statements by the Governor or with Judge Vinson's decision?