Today, we filed our complaint United States House of Representatives v. Burwell (Case 1:14-cv-01967), in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The House’s complaint contains eight counts concerning constitutional and statutory violations of law related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). There are a myriad of unilateral amendments to this Act, ordered by President Obama’s Administration, which could be the subject of a challenge, and there are a number of changes that are already being litigated, including King v. Burwell, which has been accepted by the Supreme Court for review. The House’s complaint, however, focuses on the Administration’s usurpation not only of the House’s Article I legislative authority, but also of the defining “power of purse.” Both of these powers were placed exclusively in Article I by the Framers of our Constitution. These constitutional and statutory claims are highly illustrative of the current conflict between the branches over the basic principles of the separation of powers. The House’s complaint seeks to reaffirm the clear constitutional lines of separation between the branches – a doctrine that is the very foundation of our constitutional system of government. To put it simply, the complaint focuses on the means rather than ends. The complaint is posted below.
This is not a new question. Indeed, in some respects, it is the original question. The Framers were well aware that governmental actors would seek to aggrandize power within the system the Framers had created. In Federalist 51, James Madison warned that “[i]n framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” Accordingly, the Framers put into place what Madison called “the necessity of auxiliary precautions” to maintain the balance of powers within the system. Such precautions are of little value absent judicial review to maintain the lines of separation; to arrest what Madison called the “encroaching nature” of power.
Once again, as lead counsel, I have to remain circumspect in any public statements on the filing in deference to the Court and the legal process.
Here is the Complaint: House v. Burwell (D.D.C.) – Complaint (FILED)