A federal judge ruled for House Republicans on Thursday in their suit against President Obama and declared his administration is unconstitutionally spending money to reimburse health insurers without obtaining an appropriation from Congress.
The judge’s ruling, though a setback for the administration, was put on hold immediately and stands a good chance of being overturned on appeal.
But the 38-page opinion highlights the repeated complaint from Republicans that Obama and his administration have ignored constitutional limits on their authority.
The Constitution says “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” said Judge Rosemary Collyer, yet the administration has continued to pay billions to insurers for their extra cost of providing coverage for low-income Americans.
“Paying out Sec. 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” she wrote. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
House Republicans sued Obama under then-Speaker John Boehner and claimed the president had violated the law by delaying the enforcement of several provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But lawyers later focused on the reimbursements for health insurers that received little attention before. They said these payment would come to $175 billion over a decade.
In their defense, administration lawyers said the suit should be dismissed because the House had no legal standing to sue. And they argued the reimbursements were authorized by law.
The House argues that Congress never specifically appropriated that money and has denied an administration request for it, but that the administration is spending the money anyway.
Collyer issued an order stopping further reimbursements, but delayed its implementation while the case is appealed.
Collyer is a George W. Bush appointee nominated in 2002.
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