Health care rulings

Supporters of ObamaCare cheered a federal court ruling Thursday that dismissed two lawsuits arguing the president's health care legislation is unconstitutional.

In fact, there's a lot less to the decisions than meets the eye.

The first case was filed by the Virginia attorney general challenging the ObamaCare mandate that citizens buy health insurance. The second case involved a challenge to the fines and penalties the law would impose on those who refused to comply with the individual mandate.

But while the judges quashed the lawsuits, in neither case did the court rule on the merits, instead opting to cite technicalities.

In the Virginia case, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the state attorney general did not have standing to bring the action.

In the second case, the judges ruled 2-1 that the appeals court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter at hand because federal law prohibits challenging a tax before it has actually been imposed.

Regardless of the 4th Circuit's decisions, ObamaCare is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices will decide whether to sanction the idea that there is virtually no limit to what Congress may or may not do; that the Constitution in no way restricts the legislative branch and instead includes provisions that are meant to allow a federal government of unlimited size, scope and intrusiveness.

So far, one federal appeals court (the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati) has advanced precisely such a fantastical notion, while another (the 11th Circuit in Atlanta) has rejected that view. Let's hope reason prevails at the high court next year and the justices accept the 11th Circuit's view.