The US Constitution is very specific in the duties and authority it gives each branch of the federal government. One of the duties and authorities specified for the legislative branch is what some refer to as the ‘power of the purse.’ All appropriation of government funds MUST be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Neither the executive or judicial branches have been given the authority to spend a single penny of taxpayer money without it first being approved by Congress.
But when has the Constitution ever stopped Barack Obama and his administration from doing anything they want, regardless how illegal it is?
However, House Republicans are finally trying to stand up against Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional actions in the form of a lawsuit.
Last year, a group of House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for spending $178 billion without congressional approval. The money being illegally spent is earmarked to reimburse insurance companies that provide health coverage under Obamacare. Specifically, it’s to pay the cost of the co-payments for lower income Americans who receive federal subsidies.
Obama administration officials, including those in Health and Human Services, made their own decision that the Affordable Care Act mandated the subsidy re-imbursements. However, the subsidy paybacks were never specifically approved by Congress, so now House Republicans are filing a lawsuit to stop the subsidy re-imbursements. Many believe this is another attempt by House GOP to undermine and kill Obamacare.
Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University professor who was hired in November to lead the lawsuit, stated:
“The power of the purse is the very thumping heart of the legislative function in our system of separation of powers.”
At first the lawsuit’s future looked dim at best. Opponents of the lawsuit cite a 1997 Supreme Court case in which six members of Congress filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Line Item Veto Act which had recently been passed. The high court dismissed the suit claiming that the members of Congress had no standing to bring the lawsuit because they were sufficiently harmed by the law.
However there now appears to be a glimmer of hope that the lawsuit may actually get its day in court thanks to US District Judge Rosemary Collyer and a recent Supreme Court Decision involving an Arizona lawsuit. When reviewing the case in May, she listened to an attorney from the Justice Department give his legal opinion on why the administration had the authority to spend the billions of dollars of taxpayer money without congressional approval. Responding to the DOJ attorney, Judge Collyer asked why is that not an insult to the Constitution.
In the Arizona lawsuit, state lawmakers filed suit to defend their right to draw their own election districts. They lost their lawsuit, but shockingly, flaming liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that the state legislature did have standing to file their lawsuit, citing it to an “institutional plaintiff asserting an institutional injury.”
The current House lawsuit claims that they are defending their institutional authority to appropriate money and the ruling of Ginsberg provides them strong legal ground with which to proceed. No one is saying what the future of the lawsuit is, but some are leery of the possible ramifications if it is allowed to proceed and if the House Republicans win in court.
Walter Dellinger, a former Clinton administration attorney who currently practices law in DC, warns that such a case could open the doors to a legal nightmare that could not only clog the courts but the delay the enactment on any future piece of legislation. He stated:
“You’d see immediate litigation every time a law was passed,”
While many are not paying much attention to this lawsuit that some deem as frivolous, if allowed to proceed and end up winning, it could have long lasting consequences that would further make Congress completely inept and ineffective.
What needs to happen is for a man or woman who actually cares and respects the Constitution to get elected President and then use the proper legal channels via a newly led Justice Department to undo all of the unconstitutional and illegal actions of the Obama administration. However, I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.