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Republicans initiated legal action against the Obama administration Friday over its use of executive authority, an issue that helped galvanize the GOP to victory in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

The lawsuit focuses on ObamaCare’s twice-delayed rule that larger employers offer health insurance, and in a surprise move, also questions funding for a method of consumer financial assistance created by the law.


The action was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the morning after President Obama announced broad executive action on immigration that infuriated the GOP.

”Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own without a vote of Congress. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement on the healthcare suit. 

“If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action,” Boehner said.

The lawsuit will not focus on immigration because the House vote to authorize legal action did not name the issue.

A memo from Boehner’s office said an additional vote is under consideration. 

Executive action has become the focal point of Republicans’ criticism of Obama and his administration. Before Thursday’s immigration announcement, which will allow up to 5 million undocumented residents to remain in the United States, Boehner accused Obama of acting like a “king” or “emperor.”

Success for the healthcare lawsuit is uncertain, however, as many legal scholars agree that Republicans will have trouble establishing standing in court. The legal system is also limited in adjudicating problems that a judge could regard as political in nature. 

The lawsuit drew fire from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“While the American people want Congress to get serious about creating good-paying jobs and strengthening the middle class, House Republicans are paying $500-an-hour in taxpayer money to sue the President of the United States,” she said in a statement.

“The fact is, this lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through the political process.  The legislative branch cannot sue simply because they disagree with the way a law passed by a different Congress has been implemented,” she added. “It is clear, as one leading legal scholar put it, that this lawsuit is ‘an embarrassing loser.’”

The suit identifies two areas where Republicans believe the Obama administration has exceeded its constitutional authority. 

One involves the employer mandate, a requirement that companies of 50 or more workers offer health coverage or pay fines of as much as $3,000 per person.

Originally set to take effect in 2014, the provision was delayed one year for all businesses and an additional year for companies with 50 to 99 workers. The decisions split large employer groups, who welcomed the delays, from their traditional Republican allies.

The other focus of the lawsuit is a little-known provision in ObamaCare designed to alleviate out-of-pocket medical costs for people with lower incomes. 

Separate from the widely discussed premium subsidies on the exchanges, the administration pays health insurance companies to reduce the cost of deductibles and co-pays for some consumers. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the payments will total $3 billion this year and $175 billion over 10 years.

Republicans argue that the payments are unlawful because no funds for the subsidies have been appropriated by Congress.

The administration is currently transferring funds out of a separate account within the Treasury Department, according to the GOP. If that method were invalidated, insurers would still be responsible for the subsidies without reimbursement from the government.

Boehner’s office argued that a decision against the method of payment would not take healthcare benefits from low-income Americans.

”The lawsuit were successful on this cost-sharing point, no low-income Americans would lose their health care because insurance companies would still be required to provide the coverage/subsidy to those people,” a memo stated. 

“The insurance companies simply wouldn’t be able to get a refund from the government for the subsidy.”

The suit comes after Boehner hired a third lawyer, George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, to handle the case this week. Two previous legal teams had backed away from the effort. 

The secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Treasury are named as defendants.

— Scott Wong contributed.

This story was updated at 11:58 a.m.

Tags Barack Obama Employer mandate Executive action John Boehner Nancy Pelosi ObamaCare

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