Employer mandate focus of House Republicans' lawsuit
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Republicans made good on a vote to sue the Obama administration over implementation of the 2010 health-care law with a lawsuit naming the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury as defendants in what they claim to be a case of constitutional overreach.
Republicans in July voted to sue over the Affordable Care Act, and today claimed in a complaint filed in Washington federal court that the president exceeded his powers when he delayed one of the measures central requirements without a vote of Congress.
Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well.
The lawsuit challenges Obamas waiver of the employer mandate, a requirement that most employers provide health insurance to workers. The House also claimed the transfer of about $175 billion to insurance companies was illegal.
The health act lawsuit comes the day after President Barack Obama, in a nationally televised speech, announced actions to ease immigration restrictions and allow some undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. Republican leaders of Congress warned against such actions as being beyond the power of the president, and some state officials have threatened to sue.
Instead of passing legislation to help expand the middle class and grow the economy, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars pursuing a lawsuit that is without any sound legal basis, White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in an e-mail.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said yesterday that Congress will act if Obama eases deportations of undocumented immigrants on his own. Senate Democrats said Obama is acting on immigration because House Republicans have refused to pass legislation since the senators approved a bipartisan plan in 2013.
Boehner said legal action over Obamas immigration plans is under consideration and would require an additional vote by the House. HHS officials declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit. Erin Donar, a spokeswoman for the Treasury, referred requests for comment to the White House.
In todays lawsuit, the House alleged that the administration is unconstitutionally using funds from a separate Treasury Department account, authorized for other purposes, to pay insurance companies. Congress has never appropriated funds for the health-care laws cost-sharing program, according to the complaint.
If this lawsuit were successful on this cost-sharing point, no low-income Americans would lose their health care because insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage/subsidy to those people, according to Boehners statement.
The complaint addresses fundamental issues regarding the limits of executive power, according to the filing.
One fundamental tenet of our divided-power system of government is that all legislative power is vested in Congress and Congress alone, according to the complaint filed on the Republicans behalf by constitutional expert Jonathan Turley.
Turley, a George Washington University law professor, supports the health-care law but said he believes the president violated the constitution. He said in a blog post earlier this week that the presidents implementation of the Affordable Care Act has more to do with constitutional law than health care law.
The U.S. constitution doesnt permit the executive branch to enact laws, or to amend or repeal duly enacted laws, including taking unilateral actions that have such an effect, according to the complaint. Additionally, the constitution bans the use of public funds absent the enactment of a law appropriating such funds, according to the filing.
Not only is there no license for the Administration to go it alone in our system, but such unilateral action is directly barred by Article I, Turley wrote in the complaint.
House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal or delay all or part of the health care law. The lawsuit allows Boehner to escalate his objections to Obamas actions without giving in to some Tea Party-backed members of his party who want the House to consider impeaching the president, a move he has ruled out.
In July, five Republicans joined 220 Democrats in voting against a lawsuit: Representatives Paul Broun of Georgia, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Steve Stockman of Texas.
The case is U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, 14-cv-01967, U.S. District Court District of Columbia (Washington).