Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Monday that he decided to sue the Obama administration over the subsidy for lawmakers in the president’s health care law because it is unfair to give members of Congress special treatment. Johnson said the subsidy creates a double standard that favors members of Congress and their staff over other Americans, and should be eliminated.
“It’s a matter of basic fairness,” Johnson said. “It’s also a matter of standing up, ensuring that we actually enforce the rule of law because, let’s face it, this president across the board is pretty well just ignoring his constitutional duty, his oath of office to faithfully execute the law.”
Johnson said Congress has tried the legislative route to getting rid of the subsidy, such as amendments in the House and the Senate, but they failed. He added, since lawmakers exhausted all their legislative options, they must turn to the courts.
Johnson also said he hopes getting rid of the subsidy will show Democrats the reality of ObamaCare. “The only way they are going to start changing this law, the only way they are going to start repairing and limiting the damage is if they feel the full, harsh realities of the law and that’s another thing this lawsuit would actually accomplish,” he said.
In defense of the suit, Johnson said, “I don’t in any way, shape or form believe this is trivial, believe this is frivolous, believe this is a stunt.” The suit notes that under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their staffs are to receive health insurance coverage either created under that law or offered through the online insurance exchanges set up by the law. Johnson brought his lawsuit five days after that provision was to kick in.
The suit says the Office of Personnel Management has essentially designated the federal government as a small business by allowing members of Congress to buy insurance through an exchange set up for employers with fewer than 100 workers. “The federal government has millions of employees, and even Congress itself has more than 11,000 employees. Obviously, neither the federal government nor the Congress could possibly qualify as a small business under the Affordable Care Act,” the suit says.
The suit contends the personnel office passed a rule beyond its legal authority. Further, the rule violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because it treats members of Congress and their staffs differently than employees of small businesses who buy insurance through the exchange. That’s because private-sector employees cannot buy insurance through the exchanges using tax-exempt payments from their employers.
Johnson was joined at his news conference by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative public-interest law firm. Esenberg is serving as Johnson’s attorney. Clement, an attorney with a national reputation who argued against the constitutionality of ObamaCare before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, is an appellate consultant on Johnson’s case.
The other plaintiff in the case is Johnson’s legislative counsel, Brooke Ericson. As a congressional staff member, she is affected by the federal rule at the heart of the case.