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Judge sides with House GOP against Obamacare

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance, was displayed on a laptop screen in Washington in Oct. 2015. A federal judge has ruled that the Obama administration is unconstitutionally spending federal money to fund the president’s health care law.

WASHINGTON » In a setback to President Barack Obama’s health care law, a federal judge ruled today that the administration is unconstitutionally spending federal money to fund the measure without approval from Congress.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine the law.

If the decision is upheld, it could roil the health care law’s insurance markets, which are still struggling for stability after three years.

Collyer said her ruling would be put on hold while it is appealed.

At issue is the $175 billion the government is paying to reimburse health insurers over a decade to reduce co-payments for lower-income people.

The House argues that Congress never specifically appropriated that money and has denied an administration request for it. It says the administration is spending the money anyway, exceeding its constitutional authority. The administration has said it can spend the money automatically because the law authorizes it.

House Republicans launched the lawsuit in 2014 over Democrats’ objections. The House had already voted dozens of times to repeal all or parts of the law Republicans call “Obamacare,” but those efforts went nowhere as they stalled in the Senate or faced a White House veto.

Instead, the House turned its focus to tying up money spent on the law. Republican House leaders asserted that the Obama administration couldn’t spend money that lawmakers refused to provide.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., called the ruling “an important step toward restoring the separation of powers and stopping President Obama’s power grab.”

“The Constitution is also clear that Congress has the power of the purse. The president cannot spend Americans’ money on his own terms,” Goodlatte said.

The disputed subsidies help lower-earning people afford out-of-pocket costs such as annual insurance deductibles and co-payments when they visit doctors.

These subsidies, called “cost-sharing reductions” are separate from the financial aid provided under the law to help people pay their monthly premiums, which would not be affected. But that doesn’t make the cost-sharing subsidies any less important. Without them, millions of people may not be able to afford to use the health insurance that they have obtained through the law.

Under the law, insurers have to provide cost-sharing assistance to consumers who earn up to two-and-a-half times the federal poverty level, or $60,750 for a family of four.

The government is then required to reimburse insurers for the cost of the subsidies. The administration maintains that the law authorizes the government to provide the money automatically, without going back to Congress for approval each year.

But Collyer rejected that argument, saying appropriating the money is up to lawmakers. “That is Congress’ prerogative,” Collyer wrote. “The court cannot override it by rewriting” the law. Collyer was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, a Republican.

If Congressional approval for the spending is required, Congress’ GOP majority can just shut it off. And if that happens, the administration says the only option insurers have would be to raise insurance premiums significantly.

However, companies might also decide to bail out of the health law markets altogether. Major insurers already are struggling to make money on the program.

The White House had earlier argued that the House had no legal authority to pursue its lawsuit, but Collyer rejected that argument and allowed it to proceed.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who authorized the lawsuit, tweeted that the decision “is a victory for the American people, and for House Republicans, who have stood firm for the rule of law.”

The administration is expected to appeal today’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In another case last year, the Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the law’s subsidies for premiums. However, the legal issues in that case were much different.

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  • Obama has been a complete JOKE as a president. TRUMP is the leader this country needs. No more useless politicians or community organizers !

    • It is the timid GOP mice who have been a complete joke.

      Now finally with The Donald and his clankers as a role model, Republicans are finally willing to scrap.

      Long over due, but very welcome development.

    • The joke is a republican party that has abandoned republican principles. Today deficits don’t matter when they are in power. Voodoo is their only economic policy. How sad.

        • I suspect the republican party will go down in defeat come Nov. Sadly they offer nothing of substance.

        • President Donald Trump vs hiLIARy for PRISONdent…easy choice, GO DON! Get used to it.

      • The joke WAS a republican party that has abandoned republican principles, but The Donald has unleashed a RINO-cide campaign and intends to clean house. Don’t be surprised to see a resurrection of PRINCIPLE for a change.

      • Thanks for the opportunity to remind you of democrat party principles. For some reason you forget to bring those up in comparison. Here they are and happy to help:

        Inflaming an ever increasing racial divide.

        Impoverishing the largest progressive run state, California, with the highest percentage of those living under the poverty line.

        Ignoring our soon to be insolvent entitlement programs (Social Security Disability next year).

        Presiding over the slowest economic recovery, the lowest labor participation rate in 4 decades.

        Squandering US influence in the world at the expense of vital national interests, particularly the Middle East.

        Negotiating a nuclear agreement that will set of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and actually shelter the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

        An immigration policy that amounts to the dissolution of our borders in order to import democrat party voters.

        Use of the IRS like a sort of political gestapo to shut up conservative groups.

        Supporting the sale of baby body parts.

        These appear to be the guiding principles of the Democrat party, either by design or by ignorance, aimed at a slow destruction of the country.

    • Wazdat, and it took Speaker Ryan to get the House to agree to file the law suit and now win at the first level. Obama is in trouble on this one.

    • Actually, in a more in-depth story I read elsewhere, it was apparent that the administration’s position was that, “if congress didn’t want us to spend the money unconstitutionally, they should have explicitly stated not to spend it unconstitutionally.” The actual nature of the administration’s arguments was very eye-opening.

  • And I am struggling with the price of health care for my family! Lets get this repealed and have the great health care system we had back!

    • You’re leaving yourself open for valid rebuttals detailing the fractured system we had before. While I agree that Obamacare has obviously not been nearly the success it’s proponents would have us believe, and it’s proving that continually with articles like this one, it’s also obvious something needed to be done. Hopefully it will be dramatically modified in the near future, with the lessons learned to date contributing to the edit. As for Trump’s ability to guide us through these changes, I’d personally rather have someone more able to surround themselves with capable advisors.

      • Please I would love to go back to the healthcare I had in 2008. Lower deductible, Lower fee’s, name brand drugs, and a doctor that could order up anything he deemed necessary for my health. Oh the good ole days before government destruction.

        • O is the WORST POTUS ever in American history…BLAME the DEMS for this catastrophe.

        • No one has anything they had back in 2008 – there was a recession, remember? The criminal actions of big finance have forever changed the landscape of all our lives. The benefits, salaries, and security we had several years ago aren’t possible any more, even if you repealed the current health care law today. It’s hard, but we have to stop daydreaming about what used to be, and face up to the fact that we have a very broken economic system and a very broken society because of the “big money” entities – which are being protected by Republicans even at the expense of the people of this country, our national security, and our survival potential.

        • As far as my individual coverage, I’d like to go back as well. I’m about 30% higher now myself, and that’s with subsidized retirement coverage. But my situation doesn’t reflect the needs of so many more, many who are unable, and yes, unwilling, to pay their share. Our ER’s were flooded beyond the breaking point, used as primary care facilities. My brother has been an ER doctor for 35 years, and worries a lot about the next generation of physicians, based largely on decreasing reward for increasing effort. What’s the answer? National care? If we’re willing to see wait times become ridiculous, and rationed care the norm, maybe so. But with our nation’s history of imaginative solutions, I’ll bet they are ways we can think our way to a better deal than the ACA is giving us.

        • Keonigohan says: “O is the WORST POTUS ever in American history”.

          Nope. That distinction belongs the punk, loud mouthed degenerate son of a rich bootlegger who purchased his razor thin “victory” in November 1960 – – who then 18 months later went on to get us within a whisker of being fried in a full up arsenal exchange with the Soviets – – and who ignited the “splendid little war” in Vietnam to distract public attention from his foreign policy debacles in Berlin (the wall), Vienna (being accurately sized up by Krushchev as a punk kid in WAY over his head), Cuba (twice), Tibet and Laos.

  • The issue is bigger than healthcare. The issue is whether this or any future president has the power to make the decision to spend billions of dollars without having to get the approval of congress.

  • Haven’t the challenges all failed at the US Supreme Court level? This recent case is just one district court judge, who was appointed by republican George W. Bush (which makes it look suspiciously political). I predict the US Supreme Court will over-rule this one as well.

    • The potential for a drawn out fight was immediately recognized by the judge, who issued a stay preventing any action from being taken as a result of his judgment pending appeals.

    • Not if it goes to SCOTUS before the next POTUS installs a Justice – – w/ advice and consent of Senate – – to replace Scalia. Why not? Because a 4-4 split in THIS court upholds the lower court decision.

      • The vacancy is for a republican justice who voted (unsuccessfully) AGAINST the health care law. So how is his vacancy going to affect the outcome, if a majority of the court did not include Scalia in the first place?

    • If you like your doctor—–his campaign people knew he was lying before the election but felt that disclosure would cause him to lose. They should have spoken out.

      • serious..O knew and was in on it too…it was all about his legacy which btw still is blank on the “Good Legacy” column…on the “Bad Legacy” column it’s on page 10 and still adding.

        NITRO08…my DR is retiring this year because of Ocare.

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