Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) filed a fairly ridiculous lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act in January, and even at the time, even conservative Republicans seemed annoyed. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R), who’s part of the same Wisconsin congressional delegation as Johnson, called the senator’s lawsuit “frivolous” and an “unfortunate political stunt.”
Three months later, however, a few dozen congressional Republicans have decided they love this unfortunate political stunt, frivolous or not.
Thirty-eight Republican lawmakers, including such unlikely bedfellows as John McCain of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas, have joined to support a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Affordable Care Act and accusing the president of repeatedly ignoring the law he signed for political reasons.The lawmakers have signed onto a legal brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Sen. Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is asking a federal court to overturn Obamacare’s special treatment for members of Congress and their staffs.
As these lawmakers see it, they’re fighting for the preservation of the republic. “The unlawful executive action at issue in this case is not an isolated incident,” the brief states. “Rather, it is part of an ongoing campaign by the executive branch to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on a wholesale basis.”
The courts must side with Johnson, the GOP lawmakers’ brief added, because the administration’s campaign “threatens to subvert the most basic precept of our system of government.”
It’s difficult to fully capture how strikingly dumb this latest effort is. Whether one loves, hates, or is generally indifferent towards the Affordable Care Act, this brief is just embarrassing.
A little background is probably in order. Johnson argued last week that Democrats came up with a congressional subsidy in the ACA “once members realized how harmful Obamacare actually was.” That’s brazenly false – either the senator doesn’t understand the issue he claims to care so much about or he’s trying to mislead the public.
In reality, the law includes a provision 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 a little more complicated when the Office of Personnel Management had to decide whether lawmakers and their staffs should also receive 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.)
As for the new brief filed by McCain, Cruz, and 36 other GOP lawmakers, their filing appears to be less related to the specifics of Johnson’s lawsuit and more of a press release intended to accuse President Obama of tyranny. Indeed, they seriously argued in a court filing the White House is trying to “rewrite the Affordable Care Act on a wholesale basis.”
Even congressional Republicans couldn’t actually believe this.
Again, in reality, the Obama administration has had to tweak ACA implementation to adapt to circumstances, most notably through changed deadlines. But (a) that’s not rewriting the Affordable Care Act; (b) that’s perfectly permissible under the law; and (c) the Bush/Cheney administration did the exact same thing and no one in either party felt the need to whine incessantly about “subverting the most basic precept of our system of government.”
This latest GOP stunt is scraping the bottom of the barrel.