WASHINGTON (AP) – House Republicans sued the Obama administration on Friday over its implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying he had overstepped his legal authority in carrying out the program.
GOP lawmakers filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Washington the morning after Obama announced unilateral executive actions to expand protections for millions of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. While Republicans complained that Obama had unconstitutionally exceeded his powers with those actions, the suit filed Friday did not address immigration.
One Republican official said party leaders are considering amending the suit to include Obama’s actions on immigration, a change that would require approval by the GOP-controlled House. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal Republican deliberations.
“If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a written statement announcing the lawsuit. “The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Republicans for spending taxpayer money to use a private attorney to bring a “meritless” case.
“This lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through the political process. The legislative branch cannot sue simply because they disagree with the way a law passed by a different Congress has been implemented,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.
She accused the GOP of “prioritizing the special interests and the howls of impeachment-hungry extremists before the needs of the nation.”
Within hours of the case being filed, a Democratic group blasted a fundraising email to supporters, calling it “an obvious political stunt to rile up Boehner’s Tea Party allies.” The House Majority PAC called on contributors “to stand with President Obama before it’s too late.”
The House authorized the lawsuit in a near party-line vote in July as congressional re-election campaigns were heating up. Democrats said Obama had acted legally and said the GOP measure was a political stunt aimed at motivating conservatives to vote and distracting them from calls by some to go even further and impeach the president.
The lawsuit was filed Friday against the departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury.
It accuses Obama of unlawfully delaying the 2010 health care law’s requirement that many employers provide health care coverage for their workers.
That so-called employer mandate requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.
The requirement was initially to take effect this year. Now, companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply while bigger companies have until next year.
The suit also accuses Obama of illegally planning to make an estimated $175 billion in payments over the next decade – plus $3 billion already paid this past year – to insurance companies, even though Congress hasn’t provided money for that purpose.
According to the suit, insurance companies offering coverage under the health law are supposed to offer reduced rates to policyholders.
The law established a fund to reimburse insurers for some of those lower rates. Congress hasn’t put any money into that fund but the administration has started making payments to insurance companies anyway, the suit says.
Congressional Republicans have all opposed the health care overhaul. The GOP-led House has voted over 50 times to repeal it or pare it back.
The case was assigned to Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, who was appointed to her post by President George W. Bush in 2003.
AP Special Correspondent David Espo and reporter Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
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