WASHINGTON — House Republicans filed suit against the Obama administration Friday, making good on a promise by House Speaker John Boehner to challenge President Obama’s use of executive authority to implement the Affordable Care Act.
“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,” Boehner said in a statement, “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.”
The suit — filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury — focuses on two unilateral actions by the executive branch: the president’s decision to twice waive the mandated deadline for larger employers to provide health insurance to employees; and a decision to pay insurance companies through a Treasury Department account that was not authorized by Congress.
The employer mandate requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt. The requirement was initially set to take effect this year. Now, companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply while bigger companies have until next year.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, comes a day after Obama announced a round of executive orders on immigration that will allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status. Some Republicans have suggested they could sue the president over that action as well, but it will require a separate vote. The House voted to authorize the health care lawsuit in July.
House Republicans have held dozens of votes to repeal all or part of the law since they took control of the U.S. House in 2011.
Democrats counter that the lawsuit is part of their ongoing effort to dismantle the law. “Americans are tired of watching Congress focus all its energy on trying to undo the patient protections and cost saving measures of the Affordable Care Act,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a statement in which he called the suit an “exercise in futility and frivolity.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Republicans of “prioritizing the special interests and the howls of impeachment-hungry extremists before the needs of the nation.”
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, will represent the U.S. House before the courts. At least two law firms declined to take up the case before Turley agreed. The case was assigned to Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, who was appointed to her post by President George W. Bush in 2003.
Contributing: Associated Press