GOP suit vs. Obama on shaky grounds

By Kimberly Atkins


WASHINGTON — The upcoming and unprecedented lawsuit challenging the president’s authority to delay enforcement of certain provisions of the Obamacare law faces an uncertain future in the courts, legal experts said.


A number of procedural and constitutional hurdles could trip up Republican House members’ efforts to declare President Obama’s executive actions unlawful, and the matter will likely be the latest in a string of legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act headed to the nation’s highest court for the final word.


“At the end of the day this conflict will have to be resolved — likely by the Supreme Court,” Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor who testified on behalf of Republicans seeking to bring the suit, told the Herald.


The House debate around Wednesday’s party-line vote authorizing lawmakers to bring suit in federal court challenging the president’s authority to delay by one year the implementation of the employer mandate, which requires most larger employers to provide health care coverage to their employees or face a federal penalty, was focused squarely on politics, not constitutional law. Democrats, including the entire Massachusetts House delegation, uniformly rejected the measure and decried the resolution as a Republican ploy to continue to attack Obamacare.


“The entire Republican majority in this House was built on opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and yet it stands,” said Bay State Rep. Jim McGovern on the House floor. “And the fact that it stands makes the Republican leadership do desperate and irrational things.”


But GOP proponents said the president overstepped his authority by unilaterally changing the law in a way the Constitution did not intend or authorize.


“Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?” asked House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. “Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?”


But since the lawsuit would be the first of its kind charging a president with refusing to implement a federal law, even legal scholars differ in their prediction of the outcome.


During testimony before a House panel examining the claims, Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the notion that the president’s executive actions delaying the law’s enforcement amounts to an unconstitutional refusal to enforce a law is “ludicrous.” 


“The president has authorized a minor temporary course correction,” Lazarus said. “As a legal as well as a practical matter, that’s well within his job description.”

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