Obamacare Faces New Legal Challenge

     (CN) – In a blow to the Obama administration, a federal judge ruled that House Republicans may sue to block allegedly unauthorized appropriations for the Affordable Care Act.
     Last year, House Republicans sued the Obama administration, claiming that the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.
     “Defendants’ expenditure of taxpayer funds, absent a congressional appropriation, plainly is unconstitutional as it violates Article I of the Constitution,” the complaint states. “Such unconstitutional payments are estimated to exceed $3 billion in fiscal year 2014, and total approximately $175 billion over the ten succeeding fiscal years. … The House now brings this civil action for declaratory and injunctive relief to halt these unconstitutional and unlawful actions which usurp the House’s Article I legislative powers.”
     U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled Tuesday that the House has standing to sue, over the administration’s objection that the lawsuit is a political ploy.
     “The House of Representatives as an institution would suffer a concrete, particularized injury if the Executive were able to draw funds from the Treasury without a valid appropriation,” Judge Collyer said.
     The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies off qualified health plans at reduced prices for policyholders who qualify. The federal government then offsets the added costs to insurance by reimbursing them from the Treasury.
     Congress refused to fund these cost-sharing provisions in the 2014 budget – however, the administration allegedly drew the money from the Treasury and spent it anyway.
     “Congress cannot fulfill its constitutional role if it specifically denies funding and the Executive simply finds money elsewhere without consequence,” the 43-page opinion said. “Indeed, the harm alleged in this case is particularly insidious because, if proved, it would eliminate Congress’s role via-a-vis the Executive. The political tug of war anticipated by the Constitution depends upon Article I, § 9, cl. 7 having some force; otherwise the purse strings would be cut.”
     Collyer dismissed the administration’s arguments that the court should not get involved in the matter, which it argues is primarily political.
     “Despite its potential political ramifications, this suit remains a plain dispute over a constitutional command, of which the Judiciary has long been the ultimate interpreter,” she said.
     Collyer continued, “The Court is also assured that this decision will open no floodgates, as it is inherently limited by the extraordinary facts of which it was born.”
     However, a ruling for the House could put a large crack in the foundation of the Affordable Care Act, and drive up costs for millions of people who purchased health insurance through the insurance exchanges.
     House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement after the ruling, “The president’s unilateral change to Obamacare was unprecedented and outside the powers granted to his office under our Constitution. I am grateful to the court for ruling that this historic overreach can be challenged by the coequal branch of government with the sole power to create or change the law.”

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