Tomorrow, the House will hold a vote to override the president’s veto of legislation repealing ObamaCare and defunding Planned Parenthood. Regardless of the outcome, we have now shown there is a clear path to full repeal without 60 votes in the Senate. It is also just one in a number of steps we’re taking to hold President Obama accountable for the failures of this law. Here’s an update on another:
House v. Burwell
In 2014, the House sued the Obama administration for funding Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction program without an appropriation from Congress. We believe this is a blatant violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, which states, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” In total, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Treasury Department have improperly paid out more than $5 billion to insurance companies—money that should have gone to taxpayers’ refunds. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that $136 billion of taxpayer money will be doled out over the next decade if this theft from taxpayers continues.
In September, the District Court granted the House standing to sue. The judge determined that the House suffered an injury when the executive branch improperly spent money that Congress never appropriated. As the judge explained, if the administration was allowed to continue funding this program without a congressional appropriation, the “constitutional structure would collapse, and the role of the House would be meaningless.” That’s a big deal.
The final briefs in House v. Burwell are due this week.
Over the past year, the House has been trying to fulfill its oversight obligation to determine who made the decision to spend taxpayer dollars without permission from Congress. However, the administration has refused to comply with our requests for documents and other materials relevant to this investigation by blaming the lawsuit. This is disingenuous because the House has not requested any documents from the administration in the case and the judge has not ordered the agencies to release any. Last week, committee leaders issued subpoenas to Treasury for all documents regarding the cost-sharing reduction program and also demanded interviews with key decision-makers. The chairmen have also requested similar information and documents from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell. This week, Sylvia Burwell agreed during a phone call with Chairman Upton to provide a briefing on the issue, putting a subpoena on a short-term hold and granting HHS one last chance to provide the related information and documents.
The Constitution demands that Congress hold the executive branch accountable, and we are committed to getting to the bottom of this. The American people deserve to know how their hard-earned tax dollars were hijacked by the administration without approval from their elected representatives, and who is responsible for this egregious instance of executive overreach.
House v. Burwell Timeline:
November 21, 2014: Consistent with H.Res. 676, the House filed litigation over the administration's violation of the Constitution by spending money without an appropriation.
May 28, 2015: Oral arguments were first heard in federal court in Washington, D.C.
September 9, 2015: The Court ruled that the House has standing to pursue its allegations the administration violated Article I, § 9, cl. 7 of the Constitution when they spent public monies that were not appropriated by the Congress.
October 19, 2015: District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer denied the Obama administration’s request for an appeal directly to the Circuit Court of Appeals in the House v. Burwell case.
Committees’ Oversight Timeline:
Feb. 3, 2015: Chairman Upton and Chairman Ryan sent letters to the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services requesting documents and information regarding the implementation of the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction program. The letter stated that the committees are concerned that the “administration is unlawfully and unconstitutionally misusing the permanent appropriations intended only to pay for tax refunds.”
Feb. 25, 2015: Treasury and HHS sent a brief joint response refusing to provide the requested information and documents, because, according to the departments, the letters “relate to matters that are the subject of the House lawsuit.”
July 7, 2015: The committees sent letters to Treasury and HHS reiterating the February 2, 2015, document request. The letter stated that if the agencies “fail to produce the documents and information, the committees will have no choice but to consider the use of the compulsory process to obtain them.”
July 21, 2015: Treasury and HHS sent a joint response, again refusing to provide any documents or information regarding the cost-sharing reduction program.
Dec. 2, 2015: The committees sent letters to Treasury and HHS requesting transcribed interviews of eight total government officials (four from each agency). The letters stated that if the agencies “fail to timely respond or schedule the requested interviews, the committees will have no choice but to resort to compelled process.”
Dec. 18, 2015: Treasury and HHS sent a joint response. The letter did not address the transcribed interview request, but implicitly denied that request by stating that if the Committees have “any oversight interest that are not being addressed through the litigation, we would be happy to meet with you and your staff to discuss how we might work to accommodate those interests.”
January 20, 2015: The committees issue subpoenas to the administration over at least $5 billion in unlawful payments to insurance companies.