WASHINGTON — House Republicans filed a federal lawsuit Friday accusing the White House of exceeding its constitutional powers in carrying out President Obama’s prized health care law.
The lawsuit gives legal voice to conservatives who have long protested that Obama has abused his office’s authority.
Filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury, the litigation focuses on two unilateral actions by the executive branch: the president’s decision twice to waive the mandated deadline for larger employers to provide health insurance to employees; and a decision to pay insurance companies through a Treasury Department account not authorized by Congress.
The employer mandate requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.
The requirement initially was set to take effect this year. But companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply, while bigger companies have until next year.
Democrats said Obama acted legally and mocked the case as an unwinnable, politically motivated attack. Some legal experts expressed doubts that the GOP would prevail or that the case could be concluded during Obama’s presidency.
A Republican official said party leaders might amend the lawsuit to include Obama’s immigration actions, which would require approval by the GOP-run House. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal Republican deliberations.
In a written statement, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama “has chosen to ignore the will of the American people.” Boehner cast the battle as one with important implications.
“If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well,” said Boehner. “The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said: “At a time where we, I think, the American people, want Washington focused on jobs and the economy, the House Republicans choose to sue us, sue the president for doing his job.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Republicans found “a TV lawyer to file their meritless lawsuit” and criticized them for its cost to taxpayers — at what the contract said would be $500 hourly.
The lead attorney is Jonathan Turley, who provides legal analysis on CNN among other networks