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House Republicans Just Got a Big Win in Their Lawsuit Against Obamacare

Federal judge rules that Congress has standing to sue the Obama administration.

There’s still another lawsuit against Obamacare working its way through the courts—and it just won a surprise victory.

A federal judge ruled yesterday that a lawsuit filed by the House of Representatives against the Obama administration over its implementation of the health law can proceed, an unusual grant of legal standing to one branch of the government to sue another.

The House’s suit makes two arguments: First, that the Obama administration illegally delayed the employer mandate, and second that it illegally spent billions on Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies without proper authorization from Congress.

(Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies are separate from its larger insurance subsidies, and are designed to help beneficiaries above the poverty line but at the lower end of the income scale afford basic insurance expenditures, like copays. The House says that money was transferred to insurance companies to cover these subsidies without the necessary authorization from the legislature.)

Rosemary Collyer, a federal district judge in the District of Columbia, gave the House lawsuit the go-ahead on the second argument (though not the first, which she decided was essentially statutory in nature). 

The ruling that the House has standing to sue the executive branch is what makes this such a big deal, and such an important victory for House Republicans.

Many, perhaps even most, observers had assumed that the House suit would be dismissed for lack of standing, as the courts typically do not grant standing for one branch of the government to sue another, preferring in virtually all instances to let the co-equal branches work things out through the political process.

But in this case, Judge Collyer agreed that the House, as an institution, could demonstrate that it was potentially harmed by the administration’s action, a prerequisite for a case like this to go forward. It's an unprecedented legal victory for the legislature in a spending case against the executive branch. 

Citing Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which says that "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," Collyer agreed that with the House’s argument that its constitutional authority is threatened—in a sense usurped—by an executive branch that can essentially rewrite the law to spend money regardless of congressional authorization.

The argument advanced by the administration boiled down to the idea that because the executive is exclusively charged with implementing laws, Congress has no legal right to sue over how the executive chooses to do so. Judge Collyer didn’t buy it, though, siding with the House’s argument that neither the interpretation, implementation, not the execution of the health law was at stake. Instead, the House argued, that the Constitutional separation of powers itself was being undermined by the executive branch’s decision to appropriate, or spend, money without proper congressional approval.

"The constitutional trespass alleged in this case would inflict a concrete, particular harm upon the House for which it has standing to seek redress in this court," Collyer wrote. Basically, because the authorization of appropriations is a core constitutional issue, and the House of Representatives would suffer a real constitutional harm if its case were proven correct, the House has the right to sue.

Standing to sue, of course, is not the same as legal victory, as the ruling stresses: "The Court stresses that the merits have not been briefed or decided; only the question of standing has been determined," wrote Collyer. Still, it’s a victory for the House just to achieve standing, and a vindication of sorts, or at least a potential vindication, for those who’ve argued that Obamacare’s implementation has run contrary to the rule of law. 

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  • AlmightyJB||

    Nice

  • Rich||

    Looks like Democratcare will be overturned any day now.

  • WTF||

    Until Roberts and the rest rationalize yet another twisted load of bullshit in order to declare it valid.

  • Charles Easterly||

    Indeed - it's the tax/money angle.

  • Libertarius||

    No no, a "twisted load of bullshit" is actually a paradigm of complex nuances. Only enlightened beings understand that bullshit is intelligent and unreality is real (as long as enough others agree to pretend as well).

  • Free Society||

    When Roberts likes a law where the constitutionality is in doubt, we must defer to the legislature because democracy. When he doesn't like a law where the constitutionality is in doubt, suddenly the court's purpose is to strike down unconstitutional laws.

  • Charles Easterly||

    I suppose it's a start.

    I find it interesting that many cases seem to end up being decided upon grounds which are money-related.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Isn't impeachment the appropriate move? Can the courts force the Executive branch to do something that the Legislative cannot?

  • Florida Man||

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Illocust||

    They don't have the support for an impeachment. The executive ignoring the courts would give them the extra boost to go through with an impeachment proceeding.

  • WTF||

    Bingo. But the republicans don't have the balls to impeach the first black president and the democrats in the senate will never allow a vote to convict no matter what Obama does.

  • sasob||

    ^ This ^

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Yes, exactly.

    The Constitutional lays down a specific procedure - impeachment - by which the House of Representatives, may seek judicial review of an administration's actions.

    There's nothing in the Constitution about the House having special standing to litigate in the Article III courts, and as my grandpappy used to say, expressio unius est exclusio alterius (pardon my grandpappy if his Latin is rusty). That means in this context that if the Constitution lays down a specific method of doing something, then other methods are disfavored.

    The House is specifically granted standing to go to the Senate, in the Senate's judicial capacity, and hold federal officials to account for abuse of power, which certainly includes stealing money from the U.S. Treasury.

    They should impeach any federal official who dares draw money from the treasury without legal authorization.

    Of course, conviction requires a two-thirds vote, meaning that the Senate Democrats would probably block conviction. That is the fault of the people for electing so many Democrats. If the House sincerely believes that an impartial Senator would convict, it should bring charges anyway - and if the Democrats block conviction, this could be an issue in the next Senate election.

    For the House to bring impeachment proceedings (even if it loses) would be better than going cap in hand to the Article III judiciary.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think the normal move involves the power of the purse - the Court normally doesn't get involved because if Congress doesn't like something the President is doing they can just vote not to fund it. In this case, the particular problem is that Congress is saying the President is spending money in a way they haven't approved so it's kind of difficult for that remedy to operate. "If you don't stop stealing money out of my purse I'm going to have to tell you to stop stealing money out of my purse" is not much of a deterrent for somebody who's stealing money out of your purse. With that being said, the GOP has no intention of repealing Obamacare. They intend to 'threaten' to repeal Obamacare just enough to get the base fired up and the insurance companies coughing up campaign contributions and then they'll add a few twists to the law so they can say they're 'fixing' the law but what they're really fixing is to give their cronies another set of teats on the government sow.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Ooh, so cynical - I love it!

  • Shirley Knott||

    Remember -- no matter how cynical you get, it's never enough.

  • DenverJ||

    Bam! Jerry nailed it.
    Also, who gives a rat's ass about this? If the whole, horrible, corrupt, unconstitutional POS is still there, but the Admin is ordered to let Congress decide if some poor people get a subsidy, what the fuck does it matter? A teaspoon of law in an ocean of government overreach. We're gonna drown either way.

  • DenverJ||

    Also, you know who else spent money without approval of the people's house?

  • robc||

    They can hold a member of the executive in contempt of court.

    Apparently.

  • WTF||

    And throw them in jail indefinitely, too.

  • ||

    Nope. Obamacare, in letter and spirit, applies equally to everyone. It's only when either the letter or the spirit appears to disfavor the populist good that a judge would be allowed to do so.

    Like Jefferson said, "When injustice becomes the law, popularly supported resistance by some judges might be a good idea."

  • Rich||

    Basically, because the authorization of appropriations is a core constitutional issue, and the House of Representatives would suffer a real constitutional harm if its case were proven correct, the House has the right to sue.

    Basically, because the RKBA is a core constitutional issue, and the People would suffer a real constitutional harm if its case were proven correct, the People have the right to sue.

    Basically, because Declaration of War is a core constitutional issue, and Iraq would suffer a real constitutional harm if its case were proven correct, Iraq has the right to sue.

    Etc.

    "Slippery slope, Your Honor!"

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    Well, let's see how the Stupid Party manages to fuck this up now. I should say, "fuck this up MORE."

  • Rich||

    Can't be at Teh Lynx, so I'll just post this here.

    Man arrested in string of anti-Chinese graffiti found in San Francisco

    Soon after the words turned up, the Police Department’s Hate Crime Unit identified a vehicle and person of interest.

    CSI: HCU

    Also, nice mug shot.

  • straffinrun||

    If you jay walk to avoid a Chinese person, do hate crime penalties kick in?

  • Charles Easterly||

    Spray painting the phrase "No more [nationality/cultural heritage here]" is a hate crime?

    I suppose Monty Python had better retract their I Like Chinese song because it has clearly offensive lyrics.

  • straffinrun||

    He didn't say "No fewer Chinese" either. Maybe he feels just the right dash of Sino blood is course through the SF citizenry.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Spray paints "NO MORE CHINESE".

    An hour later, he spray paints "I'M HUNGRY AGAIN".

  • W. Chipper Dove||

    Win.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    +1

  • DenverJ||

    I LOLed. The other pub patrons are giving me funny looks.

  • Free Society||

    “Disrespect for our fellow residents, especially based on ethnicity, will not be tolerated,” she wrote on Facebook. “I truly appreciate the San Francisco Police Department and other city staff for recognizing the seriousness of this issue.”

    So serious! someone could get offended!

    The only real crime here is that of vandalism, the same charge that would be applicable if he spray painted his love for the Chinese.

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    Looks like this judge thinks the Congress is

    [dons Fist's sunglasses]

    standing tall.

  • Libertarius||

    +1 CSI Miami guy

  • commodious spittoon||

    House Republicans, to the federal court: Do we have to?

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    Boehner as the Rob't Redford character in "The Candidate":

    "Whadda we do now?"

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    CAPTION:

    "You must be THIS

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    !@$%!#$^%Q@#$WER# fucking skwerLz!11

    CAPTION:

    "You Must Be --THIS-- Tall to Have Standing With the Court"

  • commodious spittoon||

    Eh... your timing was off.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    There's no way this leads to anything. Its implications are too big.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Big being synonymous with "might actually achieve something, anything."

  • Charles Easterly||

    I agree. In fact, Fist, I think your observation is so cogent that I almost - almost - didn't post the following:

    "There's no way this leads to anything. Its implications are too big."

    You know who else had two large implications?

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Dolly Parton?

  • WTF||

    Shit!

  • ||

    that answer is also acceptable.

  • straffinrun||

    Lord!

  • WTF||

    Dolly Parton?

  • WTF||

  • ||

    My wife?

  • Ivan Pike||

    No.

  • ||

    Declaring an issue meaningless simply because it has large implications is at least a microagression, right?

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Liberal buddy of mine said his daughter didn't have healthcare before Obamacare. Me , being a cynical prick, said well I had that problem before so I got a better job. I think he got butthurt over that comment because he hasn't talked to me in over 8 months

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    Sorry for your loss, man.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    I actually wasn't intentionally trying to criticize his daughter, was just being honest like I would to any friend, but he and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, so it's probably best that we don't hang out. He was a cool guy, but whenever we talked about anything remotely political it doesn't end up well.

    Liberals today, many of them are just really, really hard to talk to if you don't agree with everything that they do.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Depressing - I associated with lots of progs, and the less we talk politics, the better we get along. If they *do* mention politics, half the time I just let it slide.

  • Tundra, well-chilled.||

    I understand. I seem to have an easier time dealing with my batshit insane socon friends than the proggie ones.

  • commodious spittoon||

    Socons get angry, but progs get shrill.

  • Road Warrior||

    At least my socon friends understand (most of the time) the idea of liberty and the benefits of constitutional protections against gov. encroachments. My prog friends get so steamed when I challenge them and always lay out the "feelings" and "times have changed" arguments. And it's always them bringing up politics, expecting their comment to go unanswered. Thin skinned bitches. The worst was some prog making a snide remark about Reagan during my friend's father's eulogy at his wife's funeral. Talk about not knowing when to shut up and listen.

  • Free Society||

    Socons to their credit, have some semi-coherent principles from which they operate from. Proggies are particularly unprincipled and operate off theory that's nebulous and logically self-contradicting.

  • Akira||

    I've met a few progs who will at least say that some government encroachments are serious problems. They get mad in the case of unjust police shootings, for instance. But when it comes to anything where it's private business vs. government mandate, they'll side with the government every time. They're operating under this assumption that corporations (and any profit-seeking enterprise or individual) are the embodiment of unparalleled evil and that if the government doesn't rule them with an iron fist, the Koch Brothers will take over the world, put blacks back on plantations, intentionally poison the environment, and take away healthcare from everybody.

    I've tried pointing out that an out-of-control corporation is pretty benign compared to an out-of-control government, but they don't see the connection.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    I'm in the military, the angle I take with proggies is Obama's foreign policy actions. I ask them about the surge into Afghanistan and their thoughts on that, the fact 80% of US dead occurred under Obama. The bombing of Libya and whether they support that. I bring up Bush's illegal drone attacks, then after they bash Bush I mention that Obama has vastly exceeded the number Bush dreamed of. By the end they are so pissed and even mumblings of Bush fail to cool their fragile egos.

    It is a wonderful thing.

  • EMD||

    Bulllshit. She had healthcare. She just had to pay for it.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    His daughter had health care, even though she might not have had insurance.

    Under Obamacare, she'll have insurance, just try finding anyone to accept it and provide care.

  • SugarFree||

    Is it still the GOP moment?

  • WTF||

    No, the cosmocuckians ruined it.

  • Ivan Pike||

    Is it still the GOP moment?

    Was that before or after the libertarian moment?

  • SugarFree||

    I just see a lot of people on here mocking libertarians in favor of the GOP... I'm wondering when the GOP is going to have it's big moment. Will we have to wait for Trump? Will Trump save us silly libertarians from ourselves?

  • ||

    He will and you're gonna love it. You'll finally be able to buy pants.

  • Eric Bana||

    I just see a lot of people on here mocking libertarians in favor of the GOP

    It seems there's been a recent influx of sort of stereotypical red meat Republicans or people who don't have too much of a problem voting for your generic Republican candidates, but I could be wrong. If there has indeed been an increase, I hypothesize that they are mostly a little older (perhaps 40's and maybe even 50's) and have finally become tech-savvy enough to post comments on the internet. The upcoming presidential election has drawn their attention to political news, and they have come across Reason initially because of an attraction to the good economics- and firearm-related articles but then come out swinging against the articles covering immigration, abortion, and same-sex marriage. They also voice their sympathies for the GOP of course.

  • DenverJ||

    LOL. The 40 and 50 year olds are the ones who created the internet. Back when you were learning to crawl, we were asking Jeeves "when will Google be invented?" And "how long until we get broadband instead of dial up?"

  • ||

    Ah, SugarFree, 'tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

  • Peter Duncan||

    I'm confident the GOP will find a way creative way to fuck up a golden opportunity. Like the K9 car chaser that captures its prize, Republicans will have nary a clue as what to do next.

    Eventually, Boehner and McConnell will wave their hand - ala Obi Wan Kenobi - and state "These are not the remedies you are looking for".

  • Non-ideologue||

    This lawsuit actually makes some sense. The logic of congressional usurpation via spending without authorization just might carry legal weight. This attack is one of the few serious allegations against Obama.*

    What is the fee market or conservative vision for health care? Repeal of the ACA and going back to the pre-ACA situation? Something else? Since the right has opposed health care reforms since before Clinton tried it in the 1990s (in opposition to majority public opinion), there has been no conservative vision to show how the free market folks see this. It isn't just me that sees no serious free market alternative. The others see no alternative either: wsj.com/articles/kim-strassel-a-gop (dash) exit-ramp-from-obamacare-1424996362

    Disclaimer: I am not a liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, capitalist, socialist, etc. I am an objectivist as defined objectively ( ivn.us/2015/08/21/opinion-america-needs-move (dash) past-flawed-two-party-ideology/ ), not subjectively ( atlassociety.org/objectivism/atlas-university (slash) what-is-objectivism/objectivism-101-blog/3366-what (dash) is-objectivism ). in other words, my ideology doesn't distort fact and logic like standard subjective ideologies, e.g., "My libertarian beliefs have not always served me well. Like most people who hold strong ideological convictions, I find that, too often, my beliefs trump the scientific facts." scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-should (dash) choose-science-over-beliefs/

  • tarran||

    The free market alternative is just that, make medicine a free market.

    As Roderick Long pointed out, the feds originally got involved in regulating medicine because medical prices were too low for the tastes of the AMA.

    How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government "Fixed" It

    Today, we are constantly being told, the United States faces a health care crisis. Medical costs are too high, and health insurance is out of reach of the poor. The cause of this crisis is never made very clear, but the cure is obvious to nearly everybody: government must step in to solve the problem.

    Eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem. And boy, did it solve it!
  • ThomasD||

    It's not like Obama is doing this all by his lonesome. He's got a legion of apparachiks doing the actual deeds. So what would prevent Congress from establishing tribunals, and hauling the imps before them?

  • DenverJ||

    I like the sound of "tribunals". Let's set up a really tall guillotine outside, too, you know, just to set the mood; we'll actually use wood chippers.

  • ThomasD||

    Not only is tribunals a bitchin' term, it actually appears in the Section 8, Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

    Said tribunals only being inferior to SCOTUS, so yeah, they don't need to go to Federal courts for a ruling on such matters they trump Federal courts.

    It's kabuki, just like the Iran non-vote vote.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    SciAm has been severely compromised by ProgTards since the early 90's. Too bad, cause the content used to be really, really good.

  • bassjoe||

    I'm not entirely sure what the House is trying to accomplish other than making it slightly more cumbersome for the insurer subsidies to be disbursed.

    Let's assume the President isn't using properly appropriated funds (whatever exactly that means) to pay the insurers the subsidies, the insurers will still be owed the money under the law's explicit terms. Even if the House "wins", the insurers can just file a (slam dunk) lawsuit to get paid.

  • tlapp||

    This is even bigger than the healthcare law. Every time things like this are allowed it becomes precedent for even more. The value of our elected representation gets eroded when the division of power is not maintained.

  • Faceless Woodchipper||

    "it illegally spent billions on Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies without proper authorization from Congress"
    --------------------------
    How in the raving HELL did this happen? I mean, how is this even procedurally possible? What did Obama do, forge someone's signature?

  • Long Woodchippers||

    Just wrote out subsidy checks to people or groups who were never authorized by Congress to receive subsidies.

  • Faceless Woodchipper||

    But, but bu-- ehb, ehheb

    How did he get the money? I mean, the teller at the U.S. bank needs some sort of authorization from Congress before she releases funds, doesn't she?

    By the way, are you and I related?

  • Long Woodchippers||

    no way - you have an 's' at the end of your name!

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  • Independent_Forever||

    who cares? This, like every other challenge to this bad law, will disappear. Remember who is in charge of this govt now...DEMS and they have made it clear this is the law of the land and nothing will change it and the useless GOP has allowed it so EXACTLY why are they continuing this dead-end legal battle? How much time and money will be wasted on this fruitless task...time to move on....they had their chance to get rid of it and capitulated...

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Congress doesn't sue. Congress subpoenas. Congress declares people in contempt of congress. Congress impeaches. This is a joke. And the fact that Reason attaches any importance to it after all the previous ACA legal shenanigans means Reason is a joke.

  • Rockabilly||

    If Obozo likes your plan, you can keep it. Only Obozo knows what's best for you, a once free citizen.

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