The House’s entire legal team would like, first and foremost, to express its gratitude and respect for Judge Rosemary Collyer in issuing this historic and profound decision. The opinion is attached below.
The ruling today means that the United States House of Representatives now will be heard on an issue that drives to the very heart of our constitutional system: the control of the legislative branch over the “power of the purse.” We are eager to present the House’s merits arguments to the Court and remain confident that our position will ultimately prevail in establishing the unconstitutional conduct alleged in this lawsuit.
Today’s victory is not for the legal team or even the House of Representatives but the country as a whole. Regardless of any divisions that we may have in politics, we remain united by a common article of faith in our constitutional system. Securing this decision means that the fundamental questions raised by the Administration’s actions will be resolved by the courts and not simply the court of public opinion. The system as a whole will be benefited by clarifying the respective powers of the branches.
The House filed this lawsuit after the Administration openly violated the Constitution by paying – and by continuing to pay – billions in public funds to insurance companies under an Affordable Care Act program without any appropriation from Congress. Article I, section 9 of the Constitution, states very clearly and very plainly that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
In his FY 2014 budget request to Congress, the President specifically asked Congress to appropriate several billion dollars for payments to insurance companies for that fiscal year. Congress declined to appropriate the requested funds. The Administration then unilaterally opted to take money from the Treasury and to make payments to insurance companies in the absence of any appropriation from Congress. To date, the Administration has paid out more than $4 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that amount will reach $175 billion over the next 10 fiscal years.
Rather than address the merits head on, the Administration argued that even if the President broke the law and committed $175 billion to insurers without authority, Congress may not seek judicial enforcement of the Constitution and the courts have no authority to order appropriate relief. The position would have sharply curtailed both the legislative and judicial branches. The Court has now answered that question with a resounding rejection of this extreme position.
Judge Collyer held:
“Neither the President nor his officers can authorize appropriations; the assent of the House of Representatives is required before any public monies are spent. Congress’s power of the purse is the ultimate check on the otherwise unbounded power of the Executive. . . . The genius of our Framers was to limit the Executive’s power “by a valid reservation of congressional control over funds in the Treasury.” . . . Disregard for that reservation works a grievous harm on the House, which is deprived of its rightful and necessary place under our Constitution. The House has standing to redress that injury in federal court.”
Finally, I would like to thank the extraordinary team that played such a key role in bringing about this case and this victory. Specifically, I would like to thank General Counsel Kerry Kircher; Deputy General Counsel William Pittard; Senior Assistant General Counsel Todd Tatelman; and Assistant Counsels Eleni Roumel, Isaac Rosenberg, and Kimberly Hamm. They are unparalleled in their constitutional knowledge and experience in this area.
Lead Counsel, United States House of Representatives v. Burwell