A federal judge yesterday handed down a ruling that affirms the separation of powers in our government as set forth in the Constitution.
Specifically, the suit dealt with the Obama administration's spending money on ObamaCare in a way that was expressly forbidden by Congress. The Constitution makes Congress the keeper of the purse, but the Obama administration felt itself unconstrained by such quaint niceties. The Wall Street Journal explains:
Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer handed down summary judgment for the House, ruling that the executive branch had unlawfully spent money on ObamaCare without congressional assent. Judge Collyer noted that Congress had expressly not appropriated money to reimburse health insurers under Section 1402 of the Affordable Care Act. The Administration spent money on those reimbursements anyway.
“Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” Judge Collyer wrote. “Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the FY 2014 budget or since. Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one”
Judge Collyer takes 38 pages to eviscerate the Administration’s claim that it can infer an appropriation if Congress has merely authorized a program. Congress authorizes all sorts of programs without spending money on them in one year or another. Presidents before Mr. Obama have understood that no money can be spent without an express appropriation.
The ruling is a vindication of the separation of powers under the Constitution, which in Article I gives Congress sole power over spending. This is a crucial check on tyranny. If a President can combine the legislative power to spend with the power to execute the laws, he can ignore Congress and govern by whim.
A lot of the anger we're seeing in politics these days is because people are angry that for two terms President Obama has often governed unilaterally. It is thus ironic that so much of the anger is focused on Republicans in Congress, who had to thwart him or seek correctives that are allowed within the framework of a Constitution that was expressly designed to prevent drastic changes.
The editorial points out that former speaker John Boehner, not now popular with conservatives, is responsible for filing the suit–and he did it in the face of much derision.