US District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington agreed with the Republican-led House of Representatives, which said the law illegally uses public funds to pay for tax credits to make insurance premiums more affordable, or to reduce deductibles, co-pays and other insurer “cost-sharing” measures for lower-income individuals.
At stake are payments of some $175 billion the Obama administration is paying insurers over a decade to make health care more affordable. Collyer said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and the White House Office of Management and Budget wrongfully spent the money without Congress first appropriating it.
“It strains credulity to suggest that OMB or HHS submitted a multibillion-dollar budget request without analyzing the relevant statutes,” Collyer wrote in her 38-page opinion.
“The secretaries ignore their own actions and focus instead on congressional inaction,” added Collyer, who was appointed by Obama’s Republican predecessor George W. Bush.
The judge said she was putting her order, which stops any further reimbursements, on hold pending a potential appeal.
Republicans, who have made dismantling the Democratic president’s signature domestic achievement a top goal, were jubilant about the court decision.
John Boehner, who served as speaker of the House when the case was first filed, crowed that “today’s Obamacare decision is a victory for the American people, and for House Republicans, who have stood firm for the rule of law.”
The Republican lawmaker who succeeded Boehner as speaker, Paul Ryan, in a statement called the ruling “historic” and said it was “very good news.”
And Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus called the decision a “rebuke by the courts to a president who has routinely flouted the Constitution.”
He added: “ObamaCare has proven to be an unpopular, unworkable train wreck that has delivered one broken promise after another, made our weak economy even worse, and disrupted the lives of millions of Americans.”
But White House spokesman Josh Earnest predicted that Republicans would ultimately lose the case.
“It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to re-fight a political fight that they keep losing,” Earnest told reporters.
“They have been losing this fight for six years. And they’ll lose it again… We are quite confident in the power of the legal arguments that we we’re able to make here.”