(CNN) - A Virginia federal judge on Monday found a key part of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform law unconstitutional, setting the stage for a protracted legal struggle likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson struck down the "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. The Justice Department is expected to challenge the judge's findings in a federal appeals court.
Hudson's opinion contradicts other court rulings finding the mandate constitutionally permissible.
"An individual's personal decision to purchase - or decline purchase - (of) health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the U.S. Constitution," Hudson wrote. "No specifically constitutional authority exists to mandate the purchase of health insurance."
"Despite the laudable intentions of Congress in enacting a comprehensive and transformative health care regime, the legislative process must still operate within constitutional bounds," Hudson added. "Salutatory goals and creative drafting have never been sufficient to offset an absence of enumerated powers."
A federal judge in Virginia ruled in favor of the administration earlier this month over the purchase requirement issue, mirroring conclusions reached by a judge in Michigan back in October.
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