Sen. Johnson v. OPM and the ACA Health Insurance Subsidy for Congress

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has made the latest move by the Republicans against the Affordable Care Act, taking his issue to the courts. This move to stifle what he sees as overreaching power by the act is generating tension within the Republican Party however, and the repercussions of both the suit and party politics have yet to be seen.

The overreaching power to which Sen. Johnson refers is a regulation by the OPM made with approval from the Obama administration in early October 2013. It grants a subsidy for congressional staff to purchase their own health insurance rather than go through the government health insurance exchange.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) and Rick Esenberg, the President and founder of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, view this exception as overreaching the OPM’s jurisdiction and power as “the continued lawlessness of the Obama administration.” Accordingly the filed suit against the OPM in the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin on 6 January 2014. Attorney and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement will be representing the plaintiff in this case, to be heard in Green Bay by Judge William Griesbach.

Esenberg made a statement explaining that while an amendment was proposed during the drafting and passing of the law, such an amendment was not passed and the OPM does not have the authority to make this exception for Congressional members and staff. Sen. Johnson notified the public of the case to-be-filed on 03 January 2014, and wrote and op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on 05 January 2014 in addition to holding a Press Conference on 06 January 2014 to complement the filing of suit.

The case comes just on the heels of the OPM regulation taking effect on 1 January 2014.

Rep Sensenbrenner (R-Wis, 5th district) opposes Sen. Ron Johnson. Released a statement saying that while he does support the repeal of the ACA, the action should be taken through congress rather than through the courts on issues like this one. To Rep. Sensenbrenner this is just a “political stunt.” Sensenbrenner’s biggest concern was that many experienced staffers within Congress would lose their jobs and that “recent college graduates who are still on their parents’ insurance” would be the people to take their place.

Sen. Johnson responded to this in another press release and expressed confusion at the opposition from Rep. Sensenbrenner, stating that he is “disappointed and puzzled” as well as the fact that “by no means” does he believe the issue is trivial but that it is most definitely “worth fighting for.”

This inner-party and outright opposition to Sen. Johnson is viewed by many as a rift in the Republican party and a possible weak point.

The case and political buzz surrounding it are in the early stages but are already playing a part in the fight over the implications of the Affordable Care Act.

This post was written by Hamilton intern Jake Heyka.

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