The Obama administration blasted House Republicans on Monday for inappropriately involving federal courts in their dispute over funding for the Affordable Care Act, alleging the lawmakers are trying to circumvent the Constitution with their lawsuit.
In its opening brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Obama administration claimed House Republicans ignored the usual “give and take” of the political process by asking a federal trial court to throw out the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies over lack of funding. House Republicans maintain that the administration illegally spent money on those cost-sharing provisions even though Congress didn't appropriate funds for them, by siphoning money from an ACA tax subsidy fund.
But that is a “political disagreement” that should be settled via legislation rather than litigation, according to the executive branch.
“By filing this suit, the House seeks to achieve the same result without obtaining the concurrence of the Senate or accepting the political accountability attendant to legislation,” the U.S. Justice Department wrote in its brief.
So far, the Obama administration has gained little traction in the federal courts with its arguments. In May, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer sided with House Republicans and ruled the cost-sharing provisions were unconstitutionally funded. In September 2015, she determined the House lawmakers could sue over the issue in federal court, despite vehement objections by the Justice Department.
While the House has said that the funding of the ACA cost-sharing provision circumvented its constitutional role to determine appropriations, the Obama administration says the House fulfilled that role by approving the program and continuing to pass legislation under the assumption that the disputed subsidies would be paid.
“Disagreements between the political parties are resolved through the political process, not through litigation instigated by a single House of Congress,” the brief said. “The district court's decision fundamentally undermines that constitutional design and would vastly expand the role of the judicial branch, enmeshing courts in a limitless number of political disputes.”
What's more, the Justice Department told the D.C. Circuit that the federal government would face an even higher bill for premium tax subsidies if the lower court's decision isn't overturned. In that situation, insurers would raise their premiums and the U.S. Treasury Department would be obligated to dole out even more tax credits.
According to the CMS, approximately 56% of Americans who have purchased insurance coverage on ACA exchanges received these controversial cost-sharing reductions as of June 2015. The federal government is continuing to pay the subsidies until the D.C. Circuit rules on the Obama administration's appeal.
House Republicans are scheduled to respond to the Obama administration's appeal by Nov. 23. Oral arguments in the case have not yet been set.