Boehner’s Stupid, Expensive Lawsuit to Stop Healthcare Benefits for Poor People

A lawsuit so petty and mean, it defies belief.

House Speaker John Boehner. (Photo:  Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

House Speaker John Boehner’s scheme sounds like election-year red meat. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

American generosity is legendary. Our nation is routinely listed as the most giving on the planet. Whatever else the haters say about us, they can’t say we don’t open our pockets when we see disaster or starvation thousands of miles away.

But our generosity has a strange limit. We don’t mind shelling out for the poor and displaced in Africa or Asia, but a faction goes frothing and flinty when asked to help the poor among us.

This week, House Republicans announced they would follow through with their threat to sue the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare has been approved on more than 40 votes, with Republicans coming up on the losing side. A rightist Supreme Court didn’t give them satisfaction. But, House Republicans, unwilling to accept the will of the people on this one, have now hired a $500-an-hour TV lawyer to take the president to court.

The details of this lawsuit are so mean and petty they defy belief. House Speaker John Boehner & Co. are about to blow taxpayer money with the express intent of trying NOT to help the poorest Americans.

Besides claiming that the rollout of the health care law has been unconstitutional, their lawsuit challenges the plan’s “cost-sharing reductions,” by which government subsidizes insurance companies to cover people living at the poverty level and slightly above it.

These are people who make between $11,670 to $29,175 annual income. House Republicans want to force the government NOT to pay for the health insurance for people who are struggling to live on less than $1,000 a month.

How many cans of cat food do you want these people to forgo in order to visit a doctor once in a while, Mr. Boehner?


It’s difficult to imagine a more disgusting use of taxpayer money than hiring a $500-an-hour private D.C. lawyer to force the government not to subsidize health care for incredibly poor people.


It’s difficult to imagine a more disgusting use of taxpayer money than hiring a $500-an-hour private D.C. lawyer to force the government not to subsidize health care for incredibly poor people.

If the Republicans have their way with this lawsuit, the costs of mandated coverage for these poorest Americans will pass to the insurance companies, who will fob them off on to middle-class buyers of health insurance.

Voila! Class warfare between the lower levels of society, while millionaires and billionaires and corporations who (sometimes) pay taxes to the U.S. government sit back and count their money in the Caymans.

When Mr. Boehner first announced this scheme in summer, it sounded like election-year red meat for his anti-government zombie base.

And after announcing the lawsuit with as much red-tie, red-state bluster as he could muster, Mr. Boehner went back to working on his tan in the Ohio sun, and seemed to have forgotten about it.

But a House Rules Committee approved moneys for the suit on a party line vote last June, authorizing the expenditure of House administrative funds to pay for it. Those funds are normally used to pay cafeteria workers, janitors and other essential service providers associated with running the House.

Republicans then voted down 11 proposed amendments to the lawsuit authorization, including one that would have required Republicans to reveal legal contracts before signing them and another that would have prevented lobbyists who oppose the health care law from being paid as consultants to work on the lawsuit.

Then they hired a law firm. But as summer turned into fall, nobody ever took the case to court.

That might have been because on September 4, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) quietly issued a report on the unfeasibility of the lawsuit. The report had been apparently requested by the Republicans to assess the lawsuit’s legitimacy before filing.

Washington Monthly, which broke the CRS report, speculated that the Republicans had buried the report’s findings once they come out. “[T]he result validates the lawyers’ maxim not to ask a question when unsure of the likely answer,” the Washington Monthly wrote.

Meanwhile, the private law firm Republicans had hired to handle the case dropped it, reportedly because the firm’s other clients had complained that the suit was damaging their credibility by association.

Now that Republicans hold both chambers of Congress, they’ve apparently decided there’s nothing left to lose by distracting the president with a frivolous, meritless lawsuit.

They are back to governing with their time-honored precept: mud on the wall might stick.

Apparently Tea Party and Republican voters, whose sole motivating issue is said to be to stop the government from wasting their hard-earned bucks, elected men and women who make up the Congressional majority and checked off a clause on their ballots reading: “I authorize you to use public funds as your own political piggy bank to stage political theater.”

Mr. Boehner also found a new lawyer. Jonathan Turley is a seriously strange bedfellow, a lefty environmental lawyer who has sued on behalf of folks claiming injury at the black site Area 51 in Nevada. Mr. Turley didn’t hesitate before agreeing to take $500 an hour of taxpayer money intended for House janitors, light bulbs and toilet paper, with which to sue the Obama administration for a supposedly dictatorial rollout of a law meant to ease, just a little, the hard lives of Americans who live on a can of beans a day.


I don’t know how many hours Turley plans to spend on Boehner’s folly (he didn’t return our calls or emails) but his fees could easily reach into the six figures if he seriously fights for his client.


I don’t know how many hours Mr. Turley plans to spend on Mr. Boehner’s folly (he didn’t return our calls or emails) but his fees could easily reach into the six figures if he seriously fights for his client.

The public till will be doubly looted by the wasted hours put in by administration lawyers on defense, whose time might arguably be spent on matters of actual importance to their client, the president, and his employers, the people of the United States.

No one I talked to in D.C. would reckon the total dollar amount of taxpayer money that is about to be wasted on this petty diversion, but it’s a good bet it would keep thousands of our poorest fellow Americans in cat food for a year.

We can only hope a good public interest lawyer will rise from his or her turkey dinner this week, in the mood to file a suit against House Republicans, requesting that they pay Mr. Turley out of their own fat cat RNCC treasury, or better yet, dip into the dark money that’s hoarded up for 2016.

Boehner’s Stupid, Expensive Lawsuit to Stop Healthcare Benefits for Poor People