House Republicans finally filed their long-awaited lawsuit against President Obama today, and it actually contained a surprise:
The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama’s unlawful giveaway of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.
….If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage — but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere. The subsidies reduce the co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that consumers incur when they go to doctors and hospitals.
Long story short, it turns out there are two parts to the suit. The first part challenges Obama’s delay of the employer mandate, and it’s entirely symbolic. After all, it’s only a delay. Even if Republicans win, by the time the case makes it all the way through the court system it will be moot. The delay will be over by then and the employer mandate will be in place.
But this second part is unexpected. Republicans are arguing that a provision of the law called Cost Sharing Reduction wasn’t automatically funded, as were most parts of the law. The law authorizes CSR, but no appropriation was ever made, so it’s illegal to actually pay out these funds.
Do they have a case? This is a brand new allegation, so I don’t think anyone has yet had a chance to look into it. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably about as specious as every other allegation against Obamacare. Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t mean the Supreme Court won’t uphold it. You never know these days. In the meantime, conservatives are likely to be dizzy with excitement over the whole thing since (a) it involves a clear constitutional question about appropriating funds, and (b) it would hurt poor people. That’s quite a twofer.
Of course, the suit still has to survive challenges to Congress’ standing to sue in the first place, and that might kill it before any court even begins to judge the merits of the case. Wait and see.