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Boehner Lawsuit to Cite Obamacare Mandate Delay

Boehner Lawsuit to Cite Obamacare Mandate Delay

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - July 10, 2014

House Republicans plan to cite the Obama administration's unilateral delay of the employer mandate for insurance coverage in their lawsuit against the president’s use of executive actions.

On Thursday evening, House Speaker John Boehner unveiled a draft of legislation that would authorize Congress to file suit against President Obama, claiming he changed provisions of the Affordable Care Act without a vote from Congress.

The House Rules Committee will take up the legislation on Wednesday.

Boehner announced plans for a lawsuit last month, but did not disclose any details at the time, citing the mandate delay in a list of grievances that included executive actions on immigration and environmental regulations. House GOP aides said the president’s actions on the health care law gave the chamber its best chance of success in the courts.

The argument may strike some as peculiar, given that the House has voted, sometimes with some bipartisan support, to repeal or delay parts of Obamacare. The mandate had been a particular bone of contention among GOP lawmakers, who did not want employers to be forced to provide coverage or pay a fine. With news of the employer delay last year, members of Congress also pushed for a delay of the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance plans.

But that legislation never passed the Senate. Republicans now argue that when Obama last year delayed until January 2016 the requirement that businesses with between 50 and 99 employees provide insurance, he effectively created his own law. This action, they argue, violated the Constitution. (That delay for mid-size businesses followed a previous one in which Obama pushed back the mandate for all companies until January 2015.)

“This isn't about Republicans versus Democrats; it’s about the Legislative Branch versus the Executive Branch, and above all protecting the Constitution.  The Constitution states that the president must faithfully execute the laws, and spells out that only the Legislative Branch has the power to legislate,” Boehner said in a statement announcing the parameters of the suit.

The White House has long defended the delays, saying that numerous precedents exist for flexibility in implementing the provisions of laws.

The speaker argued Thursday that the lawsuit’s outcome could have implications beyond Obama and the current Congress. “If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well,” he said. “The House has an obligation to stand up for the Legislative Branch, and the Constitution, and that is exactly what we will do.”

The president and congressional Democrats have dismissed the lawsuit as a political gimmick designed to placate the GOP base in a midterm election year. They also blame Republicans for creating legislative gridlock that they say forced Obama to take executive actions.

Late Thursday the White House called the Republican plan “disappointing,” expressing dismay “that Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a political stunt.” The statement released by the Office of the Press Secretary asserted that the president “is doing his job -- lawsuit or not -- and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs.

Democrats have been fundraising off the lawsuit since it was announced last month, and campaigns hope to also animate their base.

“They’ve wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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