Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Even GOP balks at ‘frivolous’ Johnson lawsuit

The right has come up with all kinds of creative ways to challenge the Affordable Care Act in the courts, but Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) new lawsuit is so misguided, even conservative Republicans think it’s “frivolous.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday said he’s suing the Obama administration over the federal contributions that lawmakers and their staffs get for health insurance in an attempt to curb the president’s “abuse of executive authority.”
“I believe I have an obligation to try and reestablish the checks and balances that our founders put in the Constitution to limit the size and power of our government,” Johnson said at a press conference.
At issue is a part of the health care law, usually obsessed over by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), that says members of Congress and their staffs have to sign up for coverage through an exchange. This became tricky because the exchange marketplaces were designed primarily for the uninsured, but Republicans said they wanted this in the law, so it’s in there.
But the story got even more complicated when the Office of Personnel Management had to decide whether lawmakers and their staffs also received the same employer subsidy as everyone else, or whether everyone on Capitol Hill should face higher costs just because they work on Capitol Hill. OPM, with House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) blessing, said lawmakers and aides can keep the same employer subsidy and play by the same rules as everyone else.
And that’s why Johnson is suing – he wants Capitol Hill employees to pay more for health care because it’ll make the right feel better. (Even National Review considers the argument ridiculous.)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R), who’s part of the same Wisconsin congressional delegation as Johnson, today called the senator’s lawsuit “frivolous” and an “unfortunate political stunt.”
Sensenbrenner added, “I am committed to repealing Obamacare, but the employer contribution he’s attacking is nothing more than a standard benefit that most private and all federal employees receive – including the President. Success in the suit will mean that Congress will lose some of its best staff and will be staffed primarily by recent college graduates who are still on their parents’ insurance. This will make it even more difficult to fight the President and his older, more experienced staff.”
And that’s effectively what this comes down to: Johnson wants to impose crushing new health care costs on congressional staffers, for no particular reason, so he’s filed a federal lawsuit to attack a policy that most Republicans support, which in turn has baffled some of his own allies.