The case concerns whether public monies were properly approved by Congress
Jennifer Friedman, the deputy White House press secretary, called the judge's ruling "unprecedented"
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that a case challenging the Affordable Care Act brought by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives can go forward.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, allowed the case to proceed on claims concerning whether public monies were properly approved by Congress.
“The House of Representatives as an institution would suffer a concrete, particularized injury if the Executive were able to draw funds from the Treasury without a valid appropriation,” Collyer wrote.
Justice Department lawyers had argued that the case should be dismissed because the House did not have the legal right, or “standing,” to be in court.
At issue were so called “cost-sharing” provisions that require insurance companies offering health plans through the law to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for policyholders who qualify. The government offsets the added costs to insurance companies by reimbursing them. But in the case brought forth by the House, Speaker John Boehner argued that Congress did not properly approve the money for those reimbursements.
“The ruling today means that the United States House of Representatives now will be heard on an issue that drives to the very heart of our constitutional system: the control of the legislative branch over the ‘power of the purse,’” said lawyer Jonathan Turley, who is representing the House.
“The House filed this lawsuit after the administration openly violated the Constitution by paying – and by continuing to pay – billions in public funds to insurance companies under an Affordable Care Act program without any appropriation from Congress,” he said.
But Jennifer Friedman, the deputy White House press secretary, called Collyer’s ruling “unprecedented” and said the Justice Department has indicated it plans to seek immediate appellate review.
“The law is clear that Congress cannot try to settle garden variety disputes with the Executive Branch in the courts,” Friedman said in a statement. “This case is just another partisan attack – this one, paid for by the taxpayers – and we believe the courts will ultimately dismiss it.”
Collyer’s ruling is not on the merits of the challenge, she simply has cleared the way for the suit to progress.
Timothy S. Jost, a professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and a supporter of the health care law, called Wednesday’s ruling a “temporary loss” for the administration.
“What this decision does is once again create uncertainty for health insurance markets,” he said.
The ruling comes months after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the administration in King v. Burwell, challenging a different portion of the law.