It takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to Republicans these days but this story is leaving me with my head shaking. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin is suing to stop the Affordable Care Act because, according to him, it has hurt his political reputation and his political career.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Explaining this is a bit complicated but I’ll give it my best shot. Basically, when the ACA was drafted, a provision was put in that required members of Congress and their staff to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) and sign up for healthcare under the Obamacare exchanges. However, because 70% their FEHBP healthcare benefits were paid for by their employer (the federal government), this move would have effectively and unintentionally cut their compensation by as much as $10,000 a year. The Obama administration created a work-around that allowed them to go onto the federal exchanges but to keep the subsidy they had been given as part of their compensation package.
You can read a more in-depth explanation HERE.
Sen. Johnson claims that this harms his political reputation because his constituents can claim his staff are getting special benefits not available to others on the exchange.
The main question for the appellate court is whether the rules harmed Johnson himself in some way, which he must show for the lawsuit to proceed. A U.S. district court judge in Wisconsin dismissed Johnson’s suit in July, concluding that Johnson failed to show how rules conferring benefits on his staffers somehow hurt him.
But Johnson’s lawyer, Paul Clement, said Wednesday that the rules, among other things, sullied Johnson’s reputation in his constituents’ eyes because his staffers were getting exclusive benefits others weren’t entitled to.
Johnson and other legislators, even as critics of the rules, would still be subject to accusations that “they are being treated better than their constituents” and “feathering their nest,” Clement said.
Government attorney Mark Stern responded that there is no precedent to back the view that a damaged political reputation constituted the kind of harm required for a lawsuit to proceed.
If Johnson prevails, said Judge Ann Claire Williams, an appointee of Democrat Bill Clinton, politicians everywhere might start filing suits on the grounds that adhering to a new law or rule undermined them politically.
In other words, his spurious lawsuit got tossed out by one court because he had no standing (wasn’t directly hurt by Obamacare) so, in order to move forward, he had to concoct a reason why it hurt him. And that reason is that it hurt his political career.
This, my friends, is why we can’t have nice
Point worth noting: Two of the three judges that will hear the case that is before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago are Republican appointees.
[Facepalm CC image credit: Alex Proimos | Flickr]