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House GOP can pursue part of health care lawsuit, judge rules

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) lauded the judge’s ruling on Wednesday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Republicans can proceed with part of their lawsuit challenging how the Obama administration has carried out aspects of the president’s signature 2010 health care law, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer represents a partial win for Republicans who have turned to the courts to try and rollback parts of Obamacare having failed to get enough votes to change the law through the legislative process.

Collyer ruled that the House can sue the administration for spending money on new consumer health care subsidies that was not appropriated by Congress. But she also ruled that the House cannot pursue its claim that delays in enacting the health care law’s employer mandate violated the Constitution.

“The mere fact that the House of Representatives is the plaintiff does not turn this suit into a non-justiciable ‘political’ dispute,” Collyer wrote. “Despite its potential political ramifications, this suit remains a plain dispute over a constitutional command, of which the Judiciary has long been the ultimate interpreter.”

House Republicans filed their lawsuit challenging Obama’s executive actions in November. Criticized as a political ploy by Democrats, the lawsuit targeted two aspects of the health care law’s implementation: the delays in enacting the employer mandate, which requires most larger companies to offer health insurance, and the use of unappropriated funds for cost-sharing subsidies designed to alleviate out-of-pocket medical costs for people with lower incomes.

Now, given the ruling, House Republicans are expected to move forward with the cost-sharing issue at the center of their legal challenge.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised Collyer’s decision in a statement that highlighted Republicans’ criticism of Obama as an unaccountable executive.

“The president’s unilateral change to ObamaCare was unprecedented and outside the powers granted to his office under our Constitution,” Boehner stated. “I am grateful to the Court for ruling that this historic overreach can be challenged by the coequal branch of government with the sole power to create or change the law. The House will continue our effort to ensure the separation of powers in our democratic system remains clear, as the framers intended.”

The ruling does not guarantee Republicans a victory as they move forward. Collyer was careful to state that her decision was on the standing of whether the challenge could proceed, not the merits of the House’s case.

“The court stresses that the merits have not been briefed or decided; only the question of standing has been determined,” she wrote.