Another Obamacare Lawsuit Over Hill Staffers Receiving Subsidies

January 5th, 2014

This is the law that keeps on giving. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson tomorrow will file suit challenging the legality of Obamacare. Which part you ask? Remember that entire kerfuffle over Hill staffers receiving subsidies on the state-exchanges? That.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson plans to file a lawsuit on Monday challenging a federal rule that allows members of Congress and their staffs to continue to receive health benefits similar to other federal employees.

The lawsuit stems from a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires members of Congress and their staffs to buy health insurance on the marketplaces set up through the law.

A rule released last summer by the Office of Personnel Management stated that the federal government could continue to contribute to the cost of health benefits for members of Congress and their staffs — just as it does for other federal employees — even though they would be buying health insurance on a marketplace.

They also would be able to pay their share of the cost with pretax dollars, the same as other federal employees as well as employees who get health benefits through an employer.

I have no idea about the merits of the suit, but this could give courts an opportunity to address at least one instance of the Administration playing fast and loose with the implementation of the law. Johnson sees this as a commentary on the broader separation of powers issue.

In a telephone interview Friday, Johnson said he was filing the lawsuit because he believed President Barack Obama was continuing the historical trend of presidents’ chipping away at the power of Congress.

“It has disturbed the balance of power,” Johnson said. “I think it is not beneficial for our republic to have that balance of power continue to be eroded.”

He also said that members of Congress made a “covenant” with the American people and promised to subject themselves to the law.

The administration, he said, helped them back out of that deal.

What’s somewhat perverse, is that if Johnson wins, his own staffers would be out of luck. So what are they fighting for? “Principle.”

Johnson, a longstanding opponent of the Affordable Care Act, is being represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative public interest law firm. He plans to file the lawsuit in federal court in Green Bay on Monday.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to ensure the law is enforced as written,” said Richard Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

The provision does not affect many people, he acknowledged.

“This is absolutely a matter of principle,” he said.