A federal judge ruled the House had the right to sue the Obama administration over billions of dollars in health-care spending.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the House had the right to sue the Obama administration over billions of dollars in health-care spending, a decision that poses a new legal threat to the health-care law and gave congressional Republicans a victory in their claims of executive overreach by the White House.
In a significant defeat for the administration, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer found that the House had made a compelling case that suing the White House was the only way to preserve its constitutional power to control federal spending and stop the administration from distributing $136 billion in insurance company subsidies that Republicans say Congress never approved.
“The House of Representatives as an institution would suffer a concrete, particularized injury if the Executive were able to draw funds from the Treasury without a valid appropriation,” Collyer said in her 43-page decision.
She said the merits of the claim would be determined in a later proceeding. But her decision, if it withstands appeal, would mark the first time that the House has been able to challenge an administration in court over its spending power.
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Speaker John Boehner had pressed the lawsuit both as a way to attack the health-care law and to underscore what congressional Republicans say is a pattern by the Obama administration of exceeding its authority on a range of issues including health care, immigration and pollution controls.
The Justice Department said it would appeal.
The White House had anticipated that it could lose at the lower-court level and said it expected the decision to be overturned.
Other legal experts warned that the decision could have far-reaching consequences if upheld.
“This decision would be a radical expansion of the role of unelected judges to resolve disputes that are essentially political,” said Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration.