House Republicans prevailed in their lawsuit against the Obama administration for funding an Obamacare subsidy program without the proper congressional authorization Thursday, dealing a major blow against the Affordable Care Act.
A federal judge ruled the administration had violated the Constitution by paying insurers’ subsides toward the cost of low-income Obamacare enrollees’ co-pays and deductibles.
If the ruling sticks, it could be financially crippling to a major part of the president’s landmark health-care legislation. The administration has spent more than $175 million in unauthorized funds on the cost-sharing program.
“Today’s ruling by the DC federal court is an important step toward restoring the separation of powers and stopping President Obama’s power grab,” House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement. “The Constitution is very clear: it is Congress’ job to write our laws and it is the president’s duty to enforce them. The Constitution is also clear that Congress has the power of the purse—the president cannot spend Americans’ money on his own terms.
House Republicans said they had denied the White House’s requests for the appropriations in its fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, yet the administration continued to spend on the program.
“Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one. See U.S. Constitution, Art. I, § 9, cl. 7 (“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . .”),” U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said in the ruling. “The Secretaries’ textual and contextual arguments fail.”
Republicans said the president was overstepping his authority by refusing to recognize the legislative brach holds the power of the purse. While Congress may have approved the program, the ruling made clear the secretaries of Health and Human Services and of the Treasury, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Jack Lew, were incorrect in their allegation it was “nonsensical” or “absurd” not to allocate the funds.
“I am pleased that the court recognized the plain meaning of the Constitution and upheld the role of Congress in appropriating taxpayer dollars,” House Committee On Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said in a statement.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest slammed the ruling as a partisan attack on the health-care law.
“This suit represents the first time in our nation’s history that Congress has been permitted to sue executive branch over a disagreement about how to interpret a statute,” he said during the daily press briefing. “These are the kinds of political disputes that characterize a democracy. It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to re-fight a political fight they keep losing.”
The court will allow the subsidy program to continue while an appeal is pending.
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