House finally sues over Obamacare

Boehner sues Obama

Late last week, the House of Representatives filed suit against Obamacare, naming Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and their departments as defendants. The House passed H. Res. 676 in July, giving Spoeker Boehner the authority to begin the litigation process. Noticeably absent from the suit is President Obama, who was not named as a defendant.

POLITICO’s account of the suit lays out the claims made by the House:

The new lawsuit claims that two specific aspects of implementation of the Obamacare law violated the terms of the legislation.

First, the suit complains about repeated delays of the employer mandate, which was supposed to kick in in January of this year. The administration delayed the requirement until next year for some employers and until 2016 for others.

Second, the litigation challenges payments to insurance companies under a cost-sharing provision that the suit argues was never authorized by law. Such “offset” payments amounted to $3 billion in 2014 and could total $175 billion over 10 years, the House claims.

“The administration is instead unlawfully and unconstitutionally using funds from a separate Treasury Department account — authorized for other purposes — to pay insurance companies and thereby unilaterally altering the structure of the health care law,” Boehner’s office said.

One of the more interesting facts surrounding the case is that the two conservative attorneys who were retained backed out after being pressured by other clients. The lead counsel on the case is Jonathan Turley, a liberal Constitutional attorney and frequent critic of the Obama Administration.

Turley announced his role in a blog post, noting his support for a nationalized healthcare system:

I have previously testified that I believe that judicial review is needed to rebalance the powers of the branches in our system after years of erosion of legislative authority. Clearly, some take the view of a fait accompli in this fundamental change in our constitutional system. This resignation over the dominance of the Executive Branch is the subject of much of my recent academic writings, including two forthcoming works. For that reason, to quote the movie Jerry Maguire, the House “had me at hello” in seeking a ruling to reinforce the line of authority between the branches.

As many on this blog know, I support national health care and voted for President Obama in his first presidential campaign. However, as I have often stressed before Congress, in the Madisonian system it is as important how you do something as what you do. And, the Executive is barred from usurping the Legislative Branch’s Article I powers, no matter how politically attractive or expedient it is to do so. Unilateral, unchecked Executive action is precisely the danger that the Framers sought to avoid in our constitutional system. This case represents a long-overdue effort by Congress to resolve fundamental Separation of Powers issues. In that sense, it has more to do with constitutional law than health care law. Without judicial review of unconstitutional actions by the Executive, the trend toward a dominant presidential model of government will continue in this country in direct conflict with the original design and guarantees of our Constitution. Our constitutional system as a whole (as well as our political system) would benefit greatly by courts reinforcing the lines of separation between the respective branches.

Turley posted again when the House filed suit on Friday; however, he will be unable to provide many details of the case “in deference to the Court and the legal process.” The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court in Washington by Judge Rosemary Collyer, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.


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