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The House GOP is also going to sue over the Affordable Care Act. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com)

Tort-happy Republicans vs. the Affordable Care Act


For a party that has long claimed to oppose frivolous lawsuits, the Republicans last week sure seemed pretty tort-happy.

One suit was filed by Ron Johnson, Wisconsin's senior senator. Johnson, remember, once called the Affordable Care Act, "the greatest assault on freedom in (his) lifetime." This assault was so great, in fact, that Johnson was forced to kick all of his staffers off of their employer-provided health care, herding them into the weeds of the health insurance exchanges established by states and the federal government. Isn't that outrageous?

If you were a senator, wouldn't you want to sue to help out your staffers? That bit of heartlessness was completely the fault of, let's see, the bill was called Obamacare, so it must be, google google, oh! Johnson's fellow Republican, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Yes, a Republican. So it would make sense then when I tell you that Johnson is not suing because he thinks it's heartless that staffers were forced onto the exchanges. No! Johnson actually loves that heartless provision, so much so that what he is suing over is the (non-partisan) Office of Personnel Management's decision that Congressional staffers' insurance purchases would be subsidized, so that the cost to them for health insurance would remain the same even though they were getting exchange plans rather than the employer-provided insurance they used to get.

That's right -- Wisconsin's senior senator is suing the federal government for being nice to the people who work for Congress, the folks who answer the phones when your grandmother calls and handle constituent issues to improve life back home.

Johnson had his first day in court last week. Whether he gets a second day is up in the air while we wait to find if he has standing. The lawyer for the OPM says that Johnson is not actually being harmed by the agency's actions, since Johnson or his staff can turn down the subsidies at any time.

Not so! Johnson retorts. It's my reputation on the line! That's right -- Johnson's arguing that OPM's decision to subsidize the health insurance of Congressional staffers -- the same way that 48 percent of all Americans get insurance, the way that 90 percent of all Americans with private health insurance get it -- hurts his "personal reputation and electoral prospects." I suspect (hope, even!) that this lawsuit hurts his reelection prospects much more.

Another suit, not yet filed but surely on its way, was announced last week by Speaker of the House John Boehner; the House GOP is also going to sue over the Affordable Care Act, specifically the mandate that employers of a certain size must offer health insurance to their employees or else pay a fine.

At first glance this kind of makes sense, because the Republicans have long been the party of business and enterprise and it is only natural that they would oppose such a burden on empl-- Wait, no, that's not it at all. Apparently the Republicans are suing because the mandate has been delayed.

Like Johnson's suit complaining that the federal government is being too nice to some of its employees, this planned suit also defies logic. The Republicans are upset that when businesses asked for more time to prepare the government said okay. Indeed, the House GOP is upset that after their own bill to delay the mandate failed in the senate, they got exactly what they wanted.

The easy thing to do is dismiss these suits as stunts. That's probably what they are.

But we also need to look at these suits as symptoms of, perhaps, a larger Republican crisis. The GOP has lost on this one: The Affordable Care Act is law, and though the courts are still nibbling around the edges and many Republican governors refused to take advantage of the law's full potential, the pro-ACA forces have won.

People like what they ACA is doing for them, even rank and file Republicans now on the exchanges. How does the Republican Party come back from that? I don't know--but I'm pretty sure filing dumb lawsuits won't do it.

Talkbacks

fetlarpo | July 15, 2014 at 5:58 p.m. (report)

Jay lets get that rage out. You wonder why so many of these teachers feel screwed. They put all of their union dues into the vaults of the Democratic party and when they lose. They wonder why they have to contribute to their pensions and health insurance like the rest of us. We posters get criticize for are rage Jay teaches some ones kids.

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