The legal challenges to Obamacare just keep coming, and there’s no end in sight.
Here’s the rundown:
The House Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing titled “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” to examine whether Obama is “rewriting his own law” by using his executive powers to alter it or delay certain provisions. Rep Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the committee, says that Obama has “changed key provisions in Obamacare without congressional approval” through executive actions, including the year-long delay of the employer mandate.
In DC, a federal judge will hear oral arguments in one of several cases brought by business owners, individual consumers, and states including Indiana and Oklahoma, who say that the law does not grant thethe authority to provide tax credits or subsidies to people who buy insurance through the federal exchange.
The legal theory behind the subsidy cases will also be explored: that the IRS, and by extension, Obama – ignored the will of Congress, which explicitly allowed tax credits and subsidies only for those buying coverage through state exchanges.
The New York Times reports that Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who is bringing one of the cases, said:
“We have agencies under this administration having an attitude that they can fix a statute, that they can improve upon a statute, that they can look at a statute’s clear language and disregard it. The president himself has said on more than one occasion, ‘I can’t wait on Congress.’ In our system of government, he has to.”
Organizations including the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have been researching the legal issues surrounding the subsidies for three years:
“After the A.C.A. was enacted and after the president signed it, a lot of people — me included — decided that we weren’t going to take this lying down, and we were going to try to block it and ultimately either get the Supreme Court to overturn it or Congress to repeal it,” said Michael F. Cannon, a health policy scholar at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, who helped develop the legal theory for the subsidy cases and will testify in the House on Tuesday. (source)
Subsidies and tax credits, which could be available to millions of low- and middle-income Americans, are the foundation of Obama’s promise of affordable care. Congress wrote that such financial help would be available to people enrolled “through an exchange established by the state” under the law. That’s where the problem lies: since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, the majority of states (nearly three dozen) decided not to set up their own exchanges. As a result, the perpetually broken HealthCare.gov has to handle most of the requests. If courts decide that customers cannot obtain subsidies through the federal exchange, it would “make the HealthCare.gov problems look like a hiccup,” Cannon explained.
In addition, a lawsuit claiming that the law is unconstitutional because it was introduced in the Senate, not the House (where tax bills must originate) has been filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation.
Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and Cannon’s colleague, predicts the ACA will be the subject of lawsuits for years:
“Among critics of the law there is a feeling that the law doesn’t have the same legitimacy as a law that passed with bipartisan support,” he said.
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