Sen. Bill Nelson: ‘Possibility but not Probability’ Health Care Law is Unconstitutional

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

UPDATE: Despite what Sen. Nelson told us about the inclusion of a “severability clause” in the health care law, the law actually does not contain such language.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that parts of the law couldn’t be upheld even if others are tossed out. But the exclusion of the language was a critical point in Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling this week that the entire legislation should be tossed out on constitutional grounds.

“First, the Act does not contain a ‘severability clause,’ which is commonly included in legislation,” Vinson wrote. “The lack of a severability clause in this case is significant because one had been included in an earlier version of the Act, but it was removed in the bill that subsequently became law. … In other words, the severability clause was intentionally left out of the Act... In light of the foregoing, Congress’ failure to include a severability clause in the Act (or, more accurately, its decision to not include one that had been included earlier) can be viewed as strong evidence that Congress recognized the Act could not operate as intended without the individual mandate.”


With federal courts issuing conflicting opinions on President Obama’s health care law, Sen. Bill Nelson has sponsored a resolution to push the Supreme Court to fast-track consideration of the law’s constitutionality.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Nelson, D-Fla., said he wants a quick judgment from the high court – something the Obama administration pointedly isn’t asking for – to provide certainty to those who are impacted by the new law.

“There are 35 million people out there that would like to have health insurance and they want to know is the law constitutional or not,” Nelson told us. “We all know that the Supreme Court is ultimately going to decide the constitutionality of this. So why shouldn't it be sooner than later?”

Asked what would happen if the Supreme Court tosses out the health care law, Nelson responded:

“I think that's a possibility, but it's not a probability. We were very careful when we crafted this law. It is going to pass constitutional muster. There might be parts of it that might be struck down. But there is at the end of it what is called a severability clause, that says if parts are stuck down, that doesn't strike down the whole law.”

On the crisis in Egypt, Nelson – who was one of the first US lawmakers to call for President Hosni Mubarak to step aside – said the Obama White House needs to “bluntly tell him you've got to step aside.”

“We know what his successor looks like, and if this had been done back in the first part of the week when we started discussing this that he would resign, his vice president [Omar] Suleiman becomes president.”

“He is someone that is acceptable. Now you let all of these clashes go and the bloodshed and the killing and so forth, it's going to be much more difficult to have his vice president become president and be accepted by the Arab street. But if he would get on with it, General Suleiman would be president until the elections that are held in September.”

“I think we've got to bluntly tell him you've got to step aside,” Nelson added.

Nelson, a former astronaut, also told us that he expects Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, to announce tomorrow whether he’ll command the next shuttle mission, and that it’s “reasonable to expect” that Kelly will sign on for the trip.

Watch the full interview with Sen. Bill Nelson HERE .

Also today, we chatted with former Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson III, D-Ill., about his family legacy of public service and his new book of family wit and wisdom, “The Black Book.”

Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE.

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