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May 17, 2018

In 2014, the House sued the Obama administration. Is the suit finally coming to an end?

Daily Briefing

    The House's lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act's cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments took a step toward resolution on Wednesday after various parties involved in the suit reached a proposed settlement.

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    Case details

    The lawsuit, which the House authorized in July 2014, contends that Congress never approved the Department of Treasury's CSR payments to insurers. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in May 2016 agreed with the plaintiff's case, ruling that Congress had never appropriated funds for the payments, and that as a result, the Obama's administration did not have the authority to make the payments.

    The Obama administration in 2016 appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where it was placed on hold amid the change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. More than a dozen state attorneys general (AGs) intervened in the case to defend the federal government's right to make the payments.

    The Trump administration ultimately halted the CSR payments, and in December 2017 worked with the state AGs and House GOP lawmakers to settle the suit.  In a court filing, the parties argued that the lawsuit was no longer relevant because the Trump administration stopped making the payments.

    As part of the settlement, the parties asked the court to essentially reverse Collyer's ruling that the executive branch was making the payments unconstitutionally. The filing also stated that the Trump administration did not accept Collyer's ruling that the House is legally able to sue the executive branch—a ruling that could have set a precedent for future cases.

    Court dismisses Obama admin's appeal

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday dismissed the Obama administration's appeal of Collyer's ruling, noting that the Trump Administration, House GOP lawmakers, and several state AGs had reached a new settlement in the lawsuit, Roll Call reports.

    The dismissal and settlement leaves in place Collyer's ruling that the executive branch does not have the power to pay CSRs to insurers if Congress does not appropriate funds for the payments. However, the dismissal and settlement do not address whether the House has standing to sue the executive branch, leaving that question unsettled, Roll Call reports.


    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in a statement said, "When former [House] Speaker John Boehner [R-Ohio] initiated this suit, it was to protect one of the House's most primary authorities: the power to spend." Ryan said, "Fighting for a successful conclusion has been an important priority for my speakership, and the result today preserves that only Congress, not the executive, can authorize spending" (McIntire, Roll Call, 5/16; Luthi, Modern Healthcare, 5/16).

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