Lawyers in House ACA Suit Tell Court to Keep Democrats Out of Case

The lawyers representing the House of Representatives in its suit against the Obama administration over the health care law oppose House Democrats from jumping into the case as a friend-of-the-court in support of the government.


The House Democrats’ proposed amicus brief, filed Tuesday in Washington federal district court, urges the judiciary to stay out of a dispute between the political branches. The brief, which has not been accepted by the court, contests the House’s argument that the Obama administration funded health insurance subsidies without Congressional approval.


Elizabeth Wydra, who filed the proposed amicus brief, said in accompanying papers that the plaintiffs opposed the submission.


Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University Law School professor representing the House, asked U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer to reject the Democrats’ brief in a response Tuesday evening. “[I]t is a given that the proposed amici have been aware of this case from the outset and could have sought leave to participate as amici in a timely fashion. They did not,” Turley wrote.


The appropriations issue between the legislative and executive branches “should be addressed through traditional appropriations and other legislative processes, not the courts,” Wydra, of the Constitutional Accountability Center, wrote on behalf of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and party leaders involved with the drafting and enacting of the Affordable Care Act. Those leaders include Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, D-New York, and Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Michigan.


The House voted to authorize a lawsuit by a 225-201 vote in July 2014. No Democrats voted in the majority.


In September, Collyer rejected the Obama administration’s motion to dismiss the suit on standing grounds. She found the Constitution permitted the House to sue over an alleged invasion of its appropriations power. The House Democrats hope to change Collyer’s mind now that the case is at its summary judgment stage.


“[I]f courts routinely recognized standing in cases like this one, it would encourage party leadership in one house of Congress, or, more precisely, factions within dominant parties, to trigger lawsuits over a virtually limitless number of inter-branch or partisan disputes heretofore resolved through legislative-executive processes,” the Democrats’ brief argues.


Should Collyer rule again in favor of the House’s standing, she should rule against the House on the merits, Wydra argues. The Affordable Care Act “does not merely authorize the executive branch” to make fund tax credits and subsidies to lower the cost of private insurance purchases, “but instead mandates that it do so, repeatedly using the obligatory word ‘shall,'” Wydra wrote in the brief.


The House and the Obama administration filed their motions for summary judgment last week. Their replies are due in early January. Turley requested the deadline be pushed back later in the month should the court accept the House Democrats’ brief.

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