House members back legal foundation's lawsuit over individual mandate

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 12, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- A Sacramento, Calif.-based public interest legal organization is being backed by several dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives in its challenge to President Barack Obama's health care law.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, representing small business owner Matt Sissell, argues in its lawsuit that the health care law's individual mandate originated in the wrong house of Congress.

Obamacare's mandate requires nearly all Americans to buy a health insurance plan or pay a charge -- $695 per person -- to the federal government.

In its ruling on the law last year, the U.S. Supreme Court identified this charge as a federal tax, but the court was not asked -- and did not address -- whether this tax was enacted constitutionally, PLF argues.

PLF contends the law started in the Senate; however, the U.S. Constitution's "Origination Clause" requires that taxes start in the House, to keep the taxing power close to the people.

And it seems dozens of House members agree.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. and chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, was joined by several other House members in filing an amicus brief in the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

"Along with the other 39 members of the House of Representatives joining this brief, amici all serve as the immediate representatives of their constituents in the chamber most accountable to them and were constitutionally guaranteed the exclusive prerogative of introducing bills for drawing forth a national revenue under the Origination Clause, Article I, section 7, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution," the 29-page brief states.

"The Senate of the United States violated this constitutional safeguard when it 'amended' a House bill designed to reduce taxes by substituting the legislative substance of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was one of the largest tax increases in American history, estimated to raise $675 billion in revenue."

The other 39 House members who joined the brief include: Michele Bachmann, Minn.; Joe Barton, Texas; Kerry L. Bentivolio, Mich.; Marsha Blackburn, Tenn.; Jim Bridenstine, Okla.; Mo Brooks, Ala.; K. Michael Conaway, Texas; Steve Chabot, Ohio; Jeff Duncan, S.C.; John J. Duncan Jr., Tenn.; John Fleming, La.; Bob Gibbs, Ohio; Louie Gohmert, Texas; Andy Harris, Md.; Tim Huelskamp, Kan.; Walter B. Jones Jr., N.C.; Steve King, Iowa; Doug Lamborn, Colo.; Doug LaMalfa, Calif.; Bob Latta, Ohio; Thomas Massie, Ky.; Mark Meadows, N.C.; Randy Neugebauer, Texas; Steve Pearce, N.M.; Robert Pittenger, N.C.; Trey Radel, Fla.; David P. Roe, Tenn.; Todd Rokita, Ind.; Matt Salmon, Ariz.; Mark Sanford, S.C.; David Schweikert, Ariz.; Marlin A. Stutzman, Ind.; Lee Terry, Neb.; Tim Walberg, Mich.; Randy K. Weber Sr., Texas, Brad R. Wenstrup, Ohio; Lynn A. Westmoreland, Ga.; Rob Wittman, Va.; and Ted S. Yoho, Fla.

All are Republicans.

PLF said Monday it is "grateful" for the lawmakers' backing.

"This support from members of the House is especially significant because PLF's lawsuit defends the constitutional authority of the lower chamber, the legislative body that is closest to the people," Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II said in a statement.

"We argue that Obamacare was enacted in a way that deprived the House of its authority to 'originate' new taxation. By extension, taxpayers were deprived of a core constitutional protection against reckless and oppressive use the federal taxing power."

The D.C. Circuit most likely won't hear the case until next year.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

More News

The Record Network