- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2014

House Speaker John A. Boehner filed a long-awaited lawsuit Friday that alleges President Obama took unlawful steps to delay part of his health care law and is paying out funds to insurers without congressional approval.

The Republican-led lawsuit has arrived more than three months after the House authorized Mr. Boehner to sue, and after two law firms decided not to take part.

It also piggybacks on fierce GOP criticism of Mr. Obama’s announcement late Wednesday that millions of illegal immigrants will not face deportation.

“Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and re-write federal law on his own without a vote of Congress,” Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”

The Obamacare suit, filed against the secretaries of the Treasury and the Health and Human Services Department, goes after the administration in two ways.

First, it says the White House stretched its authority by twice delaying the law’s employer mandate and its associated penalties. The rule requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers or equivalents to provide health coverage or pay fines if at least one employee takes advantage of a tax credit on the health law’s insurance exchanges.

Critics said the rule would force employers to cuts jobs and hours, and the White House decided to phase in the rule through 2016 instead of allowing it to take effect in 2014 as anticipated by the law.

Republicans charged the delays were politically motivated, in that employers hoping to avoid the mandate might not slash jobs or cut workers’ hours until after the midterm elections. Either way, it did not work out well for Democrats, who suffered sweeping losses in the contests earlier this month.

Republicans also are contesting a cost-sharing program estimated to pay out $3 billion to insurance companies in fiscal 2014 and $175 billion over the next 10 years. The program is designed to offset reduced co-insurance, co-pays and deductibles that insurers provide to qualified Obamacare enrollees as a condition of participating in the state-based health exchanges.

Mr. Boehner’s suit says Congress never authorized the payments that are flowing out of a Treasury account.

Democrats have criticized the lawsuit as misguided and a waste of federal time and money.

They note the GOP had to find a third lawyer — they settled this week on Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University — after two firms dropped out, and that they are suing Mr. Obama for delaying a part of a law they detest.

“The fact is, this lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through political process,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “The legislative branch cannot sue simply because they disagree with the way a law passed by a different Congress has been implemented.”

Democrats and legal analysts have questioned whether Republicans will be able to get over immediate hurdles — namely legal standing, or the ability to prove the House suffered injury from Mr. Obama’s action.

Republicans say the president’s moves could permanently damage Congress down the road by setting a dangerous precedent for future presidents who disagree with elected lawmakers.

Their legal salvo comes as GOP leaders reassert plans to repeal Obamacare in whole or in part, as it will hold majorities in both chambers as of January, after dozens of measures targeting the law died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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