U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) grabs the arm of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of the U.S. Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

House Republicans finally file anti-Obama lawsuit

It took them long enough. Four months after announcing their intention to sue President Obama, House Republicans finally followed through. But while immigration policy is obviously the hot-button controversy of the day, and the GOP is certain the White House’s policy is illegal, the new litigation has nothing to do with immigration. Jane C. Timm reported:
House Republicans on Friday filed a long-anticipated lawsuit against the White House, alleging the Obama administration abused its power by making unilateral changes to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The lawsuit comes just hours after President Obama enacted sweeping changes to the immigration system, enraging conservative lawmakers and setting the stage for an all-out war between the Republican Party and the president over the limits of his executive authority. The legal action threatens not only the president’s healthcare overhaul, but could change the power of executive authority forever.
How we got to this point continues to be a story unto itself. As we talked about last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) first announced his plan to sue the president back in June. A month later, the Speaker’s office formally unveiled the legislation to authorize the litigation. A month after that, House Republicans agreed to pay a D.C. law firm $500 an hour, in taxpayer money, to handle the case.
Things went downhill from there. Republicans hired a law firm to oversee the litigation, but the firm changed its mind in September and dropped the case. GOP leaders then hired a second firm, only to learn a month later that it dropped the case, too. This week, Republicans hired a new lawyer, George Washington University legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who filed today.
Of course, what really matters is what the case is about and whether it’s likely to succeed.
In a bit of a surprise, the lawsuit actually has two parts. The first, as expected, deals with the employer-mandate policy, which the administration delayed implementing. This has always struck me as a little silly.
The second, which was completely unexpected, is a little more complicated. Sarah Kliff explained:
The government makes these payments to insurance companies for a little-known program called “cost-sharing reductions.” These are subsidies that low-income people get to help cover the out-of-pocket costs above and beyond monthly premiums. Cost-sharing subsidies essentially cap how much Obamacare enrollees have to pay for co-payments, co-insurance, and other forms of cost-sharing.
The limit is on a sliding scale by income, so someone right at the poverty line would be expected to spend no more than $2,250 on out-of-pocket insurance costs. The cost-sharing reduction would kick in to cover anything above and beyond this. You can see how the cost-sharing limit goes up with income in this chart from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The federal government pays the cost-sharing subsidy directly to the insurance plan. So if, for example, someone right at the poverty line had $3,000 in out-of-pocket costs, she would pay $2,250 — and the government would send along the other $750.
Republicans really shouldn’t get their hopes up about any of this – not only will GOP lawmakers struggle to establish standing, similar cases have fared poorly. There’s also the matter of Republicans turning to the courts to settle disputes between the White House and Congress, which as Jonathan Bernstein noted, carries its own risks.