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Morrisey sues feds; AG says Obama can’t ‘pick and choose” laws to enforce

By Eric Eyre, Staff writer

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday, alleging that President Obama’s “administrative fix” to the federal Affordable Care Act is illegal.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, challenges the president’s decision last fall to suspend the federal health care law’s rules and allow people to keep health plans that do not meet the law’s minimum coverage standards.

“We believe the president’s actions have uniquely harmed the states,” Morrisey said in a press release posted on his office’s website.

“The administrative fix’s purpose was to shift the political accountability and discretion over enforcement of certain federal laws from the federal government to the states,” Morrisey added. “This burden on the states gives us standing to sue to vindicate the rule of law in this case.”

The lawsuit is similar to one proposed by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, over Obama’s delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The House Rules Committee approved that lawsuit on a party-line vote last week, and the House is expected to vote on it before leaving for recess next month. Democrats have decried Boehner’s proposal as a political stunt designed to pander to those Republicans who want the president impeached.

Morrisey said his 33-page lawsuit, drafted by Solicitor General Elbert Lin, does not seek to cancel people’s existing health care plans. Instead, the lawsuit asks a federal judge to force the Obama administration to follow federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, Morrisey said.

Obama issued his administrative fix last year, after millions of Americans were being notified by insurers that their existing health policies would be scrapped because the plans didn’t meet minimum standards under the federal health care law.

The president’s fix allows insurance carriers to continue selling the health policies, but requires insurers to inform consumers that more comprehensive coverage might be available through the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges.

“The state of West Virginia believes that its citizens should be able to keep their individual health insurance plans if they like them,” the lawsuit’s complaint says. “But the state also believes that no president is above the law and that this administration’s actions set a dangerous precedent.”

While Morrisey’s lawsuit specifically targets the Affordable Care Act, the complaint’s opening pages sharply criticize Obama, saying the president changes and ignores federal laws to protect his “political agenda.”

“Examples include the halting of federally mandated deportations of certain undocumented immigrants, the suspension of the federally mandated welfare work requirement, the granting of healthcare premium subsidies to congressional employees, and the provision of retroactive subsidies towards insurance purchased outside the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges,” Morrisey’s lawsuit states.

“The president cannot pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore on the basis of political convenience,” Morrisey said in the press release.

The lawsuit also cites “the President’s Environmental Protection Agency” for proposing restrictions on emissions from coal-fired power plants...”notwithstanding that the literal terms of the Clean Air Act prohibits exactly such regulations.”

“Congress controls the pen for writing, editing or striking laws, not the president,” Morrisey said Tuesday. “Yet we see this president regularly making up his own rules for government, be it by ignoring immigration laws or imposing new regulations that could cripple the coal and natural gas industries.”

Morrisey’s allegations echo comments made by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans last year and earlier this year.

Morrisey said Obama has dared anyone who disagrees with him to sue him.

“We have accepted the president’s invitation,” Morrisey said.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @EricEyre on Twitter.


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