Thirty-eight Republican lawmakers came out in support of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare subsidies for congressional staffers Monday night.
A group of 12 senators and 26 representatives, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Arizona Sen. John McCain, as well as the constitutionalist Judicial Education Project, filed an amicus brief in support of Johnson’s January lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
“The unlawful executive action at issue in this case is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is part of an ongoing campaign by the Executive Branch to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on a wholesale basis,” the filing reads. “The President of the United States is constitutionally obligated to take care that the law be faithfully executed; he does not have the power to modify or ignore laws that have been duly enacted by Congress and that he believes are constitutional.”
The brief coincided with Johnson filing his response to the government’s motion to dismiss his suit.
“This is just one example of the more than 20 unilateral changes made by the president to his own signature piece of legislation, but it was the one opportunity where I believe I had standing to challenge,” Johnson said in a statement. “Congress was clear: The misnamed Affordable Care Act required Congress and its staff to get its health coverage through the exchange and to do it without a tax-preferred employer subsidy, like anyone else who will lose employer-sponsored coverage.”
Lawmakers and staff are required to purchase health insurance from Obamacare exchanges due to a provision Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley worked into the law. But this required them to pay much higher premiums so they clamored for a work-around allowing the government to pay close to 75 percent of congressional staff’s health care premiums.
After pressure from lawmakers, President Obama reportedly promised Senate Democrats during a closed-door meeting in late July to find a solution. OPM accordingly issued guidance days later that allowed lawmakers and staff to keep their employee subsidies for purchase on the new exchanges.
But employers are prohibited from providing exchange plans to employees as a benefit, Roll Call reports. OPM’s guidelines claim a loophole in the law allows them to.
It appears that the subsidies have been helpful to Washington, D.C.’s Obamacare exchange, at the least. Though complete demographic data has not yet been released for each state’s health care marketplace, the District’s exchange has had the highest proportion of young adult sign ups for months — a feat no doubt aided by Congress’s young staffers, required to sign up and handed hefty federal subsidies.
The amicus brief was filed by D.C. law firm Jones Day. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Arkansas Republican Rep. Tom Cotton were some of the prominent signers.
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