(ATLANTA) -- In a blow to the Obama administration Friday, a federal appeals court based in Atlanta has struck down a key provision of the recently passed health care law.
The Court ruled that Congress "exceeded its commerce power" in enacting the individual mandate which requires most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.
While striking down the mandate -- which it called "unprecedented"-- the Court ruled that it is severable from the rest of the law.
Because a separate appeals court upheld the provision in June, Friday's ruling increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court might eventually step in and hear the issue to resolve the circuit split in the lower courts.
This challenge was brought by 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and two individual plaintiffs.
Paul Clement, considered one of the finest appellate lawyers in the country, represented the states and argued that the case turns on "whether or not the federal government can compel an individual to engage in commerce."
On Friday the Court said that the individual mandate is "breathtaking in its expansive scope."
"It regulates those who have not entered the health care market at all. It regulates those who have entered the health care market, but have not entered the insurance market (and have no intention of doing so). It is overinclusive in when it regulates: it conflates those who presently consume health care with those who will not consume health care for many years into the future. The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power."
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