In early December, the battle lines were clearly drawn between the Obama Administration and Republican groups over the government's regulatory policies. This debate, which will play out in the courts and Congress, will be a recurring theme as the parties position themselves for the 2012 Presidential election.
On December 13, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held unconstitutional a pivotal enforcement mechanism in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--the "individual mandate" which requires each U.S. citizen to maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage (Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sibelius, No. 10-188). The decision has some weak links, notably its analysis of the application of the critical Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. The significance of the decision, however, is not its reasoning on the merits, but the fact that questions concerning the validity of the principal element of the President's domestic agenda will remain until the Supreme Court decides the issue. That factor will further complicate the already daunting task of implementing this complicated legislation.