President Obama’s lawlessness has been struck down again – at least for now. This constitutional lawyer president has once again been given a lesson in constitutional law.
Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer handed down her decision in the lawsuit filed by the House of Representatives against the Obama administration for their unlawful spending of money on ObamaCare that had not been appropriated by Congress. Judge Collyer noted that Congress had expressly not appropriated money to reimburse health insurers under Section 1402 of the Affordable Care Act.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board sees this as an important defense of our constitutional government. They write, “The ruling is a vindication of the separation of powers under the Constitution, which in Article I gives Congress sole power over spending. This is a crucial check on tyranny. If a President can combine the legislative power to spend with the power to execute the laws, he can ignore Congress and govern by whim.”
President Obama has made it clear that’s exactly what he intends to do. At the beginning of his second term he threw down the gauntlet with Congress threatening to do whatever he pleased if they didn’t approve his agenda. He famously said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” When Congress objected he replied, “so sue me.”
Former House Speaker John Boehner challenged that threat by suing Obama for his overreach on ACA spending without appropriations. The House lawsuit, filed in 2014, says the administration defied Congress by paying insurance companies billions of dollars for discounts they are required to offer to very low-income consumers under the ACA. Congress never approved funds for the administration to do this.
The Obama administration says it was faithfully implementing the law, arguing that the funds were available in another part of the law that provides money from the Treasury for other subsides that help reduce the cost of health insurance premiums.
But Judge Collyer struck down this argument:
“Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” wrote Judge Collyer. “Such an appropriation cannot be inferred. Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the FY 2014 budget or since. Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
Brent Kendall, Stephanie Armour, and Anne Wilde Matthews, writing in The Wall Street Journal, explain the significance of this decision. Insurers are required under the law to offer the cost reductions even if they don’t get funding from the federal government. So if the Obama administration ultimately loses – and the federal payments that reduce consumers’ outlays are blocked – it would be a major financial challenge to insurers and undermine the stability of the law’s exchanges that provide millions of Americans with coverage.
In truth, the exchanges are already in deep water. UnitedHealth, the country’s largest insurer has already announced plan to withdraw from all but a few of the 34 state exchanges it participated in this year because of huge losses now projected at 650 million in 2016. (UnitedHealth Drops ObamaCare) Humana has also announced anticipated losses and BlueCross Blue Shield has expressed concerns.
Even without this decision, ObamaCare is on the ropes. If this ruling is upheld upon appeal, it could be the knockout blow.