House Votes to Proceed with Lawsuit Against Obama

By Derek Wallbank | July 31, 2014

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted to sue President Barack Obama’s administration over implementation of his 2010 health-care law.

With a near-party-line vote of 225-201, lawmakers endorsed Speaker John Boehner’s plan to file a lawsuit contending the president couldn’t delay one of the healthcare law’s central requirements on his own, without a vote of Congress.

“In America we have a president, not a king,” said Michigan Republican Candice Miller.

House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal or delay all or part of Obamacare. A lawsuit will allow Boehner to escalate his objections to Obama’s actions without giving in to some Tea Party-backed members of his party who want the House to impeach the president, a move he has ruled out.

Obama, speaking at an event earlier today in Kansas City, Missouri, called the planned lawsuit a “political stunt.”

“They’re mad because I’m doing my job,” the president said. “And you know who’s paying for the suit they’re going to file? You.”

While Boehner last month also cited Obama’s actions on energy, foreign policy and education as reasons to sue the administration, the Ohio Republican said July 10 the suit would focus on the healthcare law.

Legal Standing

A lawsuit would be hard to win, say legal experts who aren’t involved in the dispute. Under U.S. law, the House would have to prove standing — that it suffered direct harm from the president’s conduct.

Republicans contend the House is harmed by the administration’s decision to unilaterally delay the healthcare law’s requirement that most employers provide health insurance to their workers.

“Our freedom is in peril,” said South Carolina Republican Tom Rice. “We cannot stand by and watch the president shred our Constitution.”

Jasmine Farrier, a professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky who studies Congress and the courts, said earlier this month that courts have ruled that “members of Congress don’t have the standing to sue if they can solve their problems with a majority.”

The health-care law requires companies with 50 or more workers to provide affordable insurance or pay a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee.

Enforcing Mandate

In July 2013, Obama said employers wouldn’t have to comply with the requirement until 2015. The healthcare law allows the administration to set the starting date for an information reporting rule needed to enforce the mandate, and businesses said they weren’t prepared for the paperwork.

In February, Obama again delayed the employer requirement. Now, no company with fewer than 100 workers must offer health insurance until 2016, and larger companies must cover only 70 percent of their workforce starting in 2015.

Miller, who leads the House Administration Committee, said lawmakers don’t know how much the lawsuit will cost because contracts haven’t been signed and it isn’t known how long any litigation might last.

The House spent $2.3 million to defend a law denying federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples because the Obama administration wouldn’t do so. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the House in 2013.

The measure is H.Res. 676.

–With assistance from Angela Greiling Keane, Roger Runningen and Alex Wayne in Washington.

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