House Poised to Vote on Resolution Authorizing Court Action on PPACA

Last week the House Rules Committee held a hearing on the resolution promoted by Republican leaders which would authorize the House to bring suit against executive agency actions to delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) employer mandate and related penalties for non-compliance. The proposed civil action seeks injunctive relief regarding the “failure of the President” or any other Administration official “to act in a manner consistent with their duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States” with respect to the implementation of any provision of the PPACA. Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) said that the Constitution does not give the President the authority to change laws by himself and that the suit is needed to restore the U.S. system of “checks and balances”. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said the measure is “preposterous” and any suit is unlikely to survive in the courts. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley defended the House’s standing to bring the suit, stating that since the President can sue states, and states can sue to preserve their power, the legislative branch should in turn be able to do the same to preserve it’s powers. However, Simon Lazarus, the Senior Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, disagreed stating that “exercising presidential judgment in carrying laws into execution is precisely what the Constitution requires.” The hearing is but a prelude to a potential vote on the resolution next week before the beginning of the August recess. Of note, the House fiscal year (FY) 2015 Financial Services bill would also restrict Administration spending to implement presidential executive orders.

Appropriations/Budget Matters

The House passed H.R. 5016, the FY 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill, which shortchanges the President’s budget request for the enforcement of provisions under the PPACA. The bill also specifically prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from transferring funds to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as well as prohibits the IRS from implementing the PPACA’s individual mandate. After the House takes up the FY 2015 Energy/Environment appropriations bill, the only remaining bill to be addressed would be the FY 2015 Labor/HHS/Education appropriations measure. While the Senate Appropriations Committee did pass its version of the FY 2015 Defense appropriations, this may be the only measure that advances to a House/Senate conference. It appears likely that all unresolved FY 2015 appropriations, including HHS, will become subject to a continuing resolution (CR) to be considered in September after the August congressional recess. Of note, at a House Budget Committee hearing, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf said his agency projected federal FY 2014 spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will amount to about 4.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), a figure which is expected to rise to 8% by 2039 (a reduction from previous projections). He said he was uncertain as to the cause for the slowdown in health care costs, but that a sluggish economy has contributed. He also said that the PPACA will result in some savings, in particular stemming from the law’s cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Conferees on VA Reform Legislation Remain Divided

Last week House Democrats attempted to instruct the House conferees on the Veterans Affairs (VA) reform legislation (H.R. 3230) to accept the Senate’s provision which would authorize the VA to execute 26 leases for major medical facilities at specific locations and dollar amounts to help decrease the current long waiting times that veterans face. The resolution was defeated on a 201-213 vote which leaves at least this issue, the extent of private care opt-out and the CBO estimated cost of the bill ($38 billion) as major hurdles which conferees will have to scale before a compromise is next brought to a vote in the two chambers. Of note, at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing the Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson testified that contracting out more medical services would leave the agency in an even less able position to meet the demands for VA internal services.

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