This afternoon, Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a final ruling in United States House of Representatives v. Burwell, the challenge to unilateral actions taken by the Administration under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Judge Collyer ruled in favor of the House of Representatives and found that the Administration violated the Constitution in committing billions of dollars from the United States Treasury without the approval of Congress. The historic ruling reaffirms the foundational “power of the purse” that was given to the legislative branch by the Framers.
In 2015, Judge Collyer rejected an effort by the Administration to bar consideration of the merits of the challenge, thereby setting the stage for her to rule on whether the Administration has violated Article I, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution, which provides that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
Today Judge Collyer ruled squarely for the House in finding the Administration’s actions to be unconstitutional and that its claims “cannot surmount the plain text [of the law].” Judge Collyer found that the refusal of Congress to appropriate the funds did not give the Administration license to unilaterally order the payment of billions to insurance companies. In comparing this case to prior unsuccessful challenges to the ACA, the Court noted:
“The problem the Secretaries have tried to solve here is . . . a failure to appropriate, not a failure in drafting. Congress’s subsequent inaction, not the text of the ACA, is what prompts the Secretaries to force the elephant into the mousehole. There are no inherent flaws in the ACA that keep Section 1402 payments from being paid, in advance or otherwise. . . . There is nothing in the ACA that prevents compliance. The funds simply must be appropriated.”
Judge Collyer’s decision is linked below.
Judge Collyer’s opinion is a resounding victory not just for Congress but for our constitutional system as a whole. We remain a system based on the principle of the separation of powers and the guarantee that no branch or person can govern alone. It is the very touchstone of the American constitutional system and today that principle was reaffirmed in this historic decision.
This victory was made possible by the extraordinary legal team from the Office of the General Counsel. I would again like to thank former General Counsel Kerry Kircher; Acting General Counsel William Pittard; Senior Assistant General Counsel Todd Tatelman; Assistant Counsels Eleni Roumel, Isaac Rosenberg, and Kimberly Hamm. It is an honor to be part of this team and this extraordinary moment in constitutional law.
Lead Counsel for the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives v. Burwell