Obamacare Lawsuits: Open the Floodgates...

Many Americans are adapting to the slow implementation of Obamacare and view it as a painful process. This view is somewhat justified if one examines current and projected changes. These include: Obamacare’s 18 new tax hikes; millions of Americans already being dropped from current coverage; $716 billion in cuts to Medicare; and projected premium increases within various states.

Although the Supreme Court has essentially ruled on the constitutionality of the President’s landmark healthcare reform bill and declared it was not passed under the Commerce Clause, one organization believes their constitutional challenge deserves merit. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a public interest firm, based in California, maintains that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the bill originated in the Senate, and not the House of Representatives. Under the Origination Clause of the Constitution, revenue generating bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

While this takes me back to the memorable Schoolhouse Rock series—“I’m Just a Bill” from my childhood, it poses an interesting argument based on the Origination Clause.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts carefully defined Obamacare as a federal tax and not a mandate and gently reminded us that Congress is the body of government where legislative questions need to be resolved—not the Supreme Court.

Thus, the Pacific Legal Foundation maintains, “This is not a law passed under the Commerce Clause; this is just a tax,” PLF attorney Timothy Sandefur said recently. “Well, then the Origination Clause ought to apply. The courts should not be out there carving in new exceptions to the Origination Clause.”

The Department of Justice attorneys filed a motion to dismiss PLF’s challenge in November, arguing that the Supreme Court has considered only eight Origination Clause cases in its history and “has never invalidated an act of Congress on that basis.”

The Justice Department maintained that the bill originated as House Resolution 3590, which was then called the Service Members Home Ownership Act. After passing the House, the bill was stripped in a process known as “gut and amend” and replaced entirely with the contents of what became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Justice Department asserts that using H.R. 3590 as a skeleton bill is not unconstitutional.

While there are other lawsuits pending against Obamacare, notably, the religious freedom cases, the Origination Clause case is the only one which has the potential to wipe out the legislation entirely.

Stay tuned. The U.S. District for the District of Columbia is expected to rule on the Justice Department’s motion in the very near future.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is former Policy Director for MyGovCost.org at the Independent Institute. She received her B.A. in history cum laude from Canisius College and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin.
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