WASHINGTON, July 22, 2014 — Judge William C. Griesbach of the Eastern District of Wisconsin ruled yesterday that Senator Ron Johnson and Brooke Ericson lacked standing in their suit against the Affordable Health Care Act.
The suit, filed by Wisconsin’s Republican Senator Ron Johnson, claimed that the decision by the Obama administration to grant employer subsidies for health insurance plans individuals purchased through the District of Colombia health exchanges was illegal.
Johnson is a Tea Party candidate and businessman who campaigned on a platform alleging that the practices in DC would never fly in private industry.
The ruling by Judge Griesbach dismissed the case based on standing, noting:
The question of the legality of the regulation has not been determined yet; although Plaintiffs believe the regulation is unlawful, such a belief cannot be enough to create standing because that would open the door to any uninjured party who had a generalized grievance with a government regulation. Under such an approach, there would be no principled limit on standing because a plaintiff need only allege a belief that the challenged regulation is illegal.”
He also dismissed the idea that the Obama administration caused injury by subsidizing insurance. Griesbach wrote:
“Even assuming that one or both Plaintiffs selected a Gold-tier plan on the DC SHOP Exchange and received the subsidy as allowed under the OPM rule, it is hard to understand how this would constitute an ‘injury’ to either person.” Griesbach wrote.
The ruling did not, however, address the substance of the case. Instead, his conclusion concerning the actual issue behind the case is likely to stir more controversy. Judge Griesbach wrote:
Indeed, the allegations of the complaint here, which must be accepted as true at this stage of the proceedings, Navarro v. Neal, 716 F.3d 425, 429 (7th Cir. 2013), are that the executive branch has rewritten a key provision of the ACA so as to render it essentially meaningless in order to save members of Congress and their staffs from the consequences of a controversial law that will affect millions of citizens. If proven, this would be a violation of Article I of the Constitution, which reposes the lawmaking power in the legislative branch.
The violation alleged is not a mere technicality. It strikes at one of the most important safeguards against tyranny that the framers erected—the separation of powers… Nevertheless, absent a concrete injury to the party bringing the lawsuit, there is no “case for controversy” over which the courts have jurisdiction.
He further noted, however “…there is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court.”
Johnson responded to the ruling with a prepared statement, saying the Obama administration “violated its own signature healthcare law by giving special treatment to members of Congress and their staffs.”
“I believe that this executive action by the Obama administration is unlawful and unfair, and that it is only one of many examples of this president’s abuse of his constitutional duty.”
“Unfortunately, those actions will go unchallenged for now, because the district court granted the administration’s motion to dismiss based on the legal technicality of standing.”