U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a Reagan appointee who sits with senior status in the Northern District of Florida, is expected to rule Monday on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There are now 26 states which have joined the lawsuit in Judge Vinson's court-- a few were added just recently-- and it is a virtual lock, based upon his comments in court last month, that the judge will strike down the core of the federal health care measure as a violation of the Commerce Clause.
When that occurs, conservative opponents of the reform will rejoice, spinning Judge Vinson's ruling as yet another indicator of the Act's ultimate demise before the United States Supreme Court. Progressives supporters of the measure, meanwhile, will fret, not just because the judge's order creates further legal dissonance about the Act (most of the federal judges who have looked at the law have declared it valid, two have not) but because the judge's language will almost certainly add fuel to the political fire raging all across the country.
Both sides will thus likely overreact to Judge Vinson's ruling -- much as both sides overreacted to last month's similar ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia. This is inevitable, I suppose, with so many people watching these cases so closely as they make their way up to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, however, the laser focus upon lower-court vote-counting detracts from the only judicial vote-counting that ultimately counts here. Judge Vinson could issue a virtual Tea Party manifesto Monday -- and he might -- but it wouldn't ultimately make a bit of difference in your life or mine if it doesn't earn the support of at least five Supreme Court justices.