President Barack Obama may not be able to outrun a congressional lawsuit after all.
The lawsuit by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which began as a mere distraction for the chief executive, has gained traction and reportedly is becoming a problem for him.
The suit alleges that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by spending funds not appropriated by Congress, violating the congressional “power of the purse.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that a federal judge is expected to rule soon on the president’s motion to dismiss the case, but that a recent Supreme Court ruling and an amended complaint filed by the House are working against Obama.
The lawsuit centers on the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature piece of legislation, commonly called Obamacare. The Times reported:
The lawsuit alleges that Obama’s top aides quietly claimed the power to spend $178 billion over the next decade to reimburse health insurers for covering the cost of co-payments for low-income people who buy subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The administration initially submitted a request for an annual appropriation — about $4 billion last year — but then changed course. Officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, decided the so-called cost-sharing payments to insurers were mandatory and were akin to an entitlement written into law, so there was no need to seek additional approval from Congress.
House Republicans thought otherwise, and an unprecedented lawsuit was born.
“The power of the purse is the very thumping heart of the legislative function in our system of separation of powers,” lawyer Jonathan Turley said, according to the Times. Turley was hired in November to lead the lawsuit.
Three months ago, federal Judge Rosemary Collyer asked government lawyers why what the administration did was “not an insult to the Constitution.”
Nonetheless, the plaintiffs faced an uphill battle on the issue of standing — the right to bring the suit. Enter the Supreme Court, which came to the rescue. The Times reported:
But in late June, the high court gave the House lawsuit an apparent boost when it ruled the Arizona Legislature had standing to sue in federal court to defend its power to draw election districts. Although the Arizona lawmakers lost their case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Legislature could sue because it was an “institutional plaintiff asserting an institutional injury.”
This is precisely what the House has alleged in its lawsuit.
Ginsburg, however, said in a footnote to her opinion that the court in the other case was not ruling on “the question of whether Congress has standing to bring a suit against the president.”
Nonetheless, it amounted to a huge boost for a case that no one thought had a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding when it was filed.
It was also welcome news to conservatives who took to social media:
RT @theblaze: L.A. Times: “Unprecedented” House lawsuit is turning into a “real problem” for Obama http://t.co/ve94MWkIhY
— Jonathan Vega$ (@Vegas_Whoa) August 21, 2015
@theblaze lawsuit okay, impeachment better. would settle for beohner/McConnell out!
— mickey brennar (@BrennarMickey) August 21, 2015
@theblaze @andersonDrLJA pic.twitter.com/2gUd366Yv5
— David Smith (@DavidSm33944567) August 21, 2015
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