Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is taking Obamacare to court. He will add preferential treatment for members of Congress to the growing list of litigation for the law. Johnson plans to file the lawsuit against the Office of Personnel Management (or, OPM).
He claims the decision by OPM, that the federal government will continue contributing to Congressional health plans, regardless of income, is a violation of the healthcare law. Normally, federal subsidies are limited to people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line. This amounts to approximately $46,000 for an individual, and $94,000 for a family of four. Members of Congress earn $174,000 per year, staff salaries vary by office.
In an interview, The Northwestern reports, Johnson explained why he was suing. “The American people have an expectation — Wisconsinites have an expectation — that members of Congress should be subjected to the letter of the law just like they’re held to the letter of the law,” Johnson said.
Johnson is arguing that the additional aid, unavailable to most Americans, will create tension between the members of Congress, and the American people, making it more difficult for members of Congress to work for the people. “In this case, members of Congress now are not being held to the letter of the law, and that creates an alienation; it creates a wedge between a member of Congress and their constituents.”
OPM’s decision forces Johnson to participate in something which he believes is illegal. It also means Congresspeople must choose who on their staffs will, and will not, be subject to the insurance changes — an administrative burden. There are two of the grounds on which Johnson says he can sue because each has harmed him.
The potential lawsuit has already drawn ire from other politicians, including Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). On Sunday, Sensenbrenner issued a statement regarding Johnson’s plans. “Senator Johnson’s lawsuit is an unfortunate political stunt. I am committed to repealing Obamacare, but the employer contribution he’s attacking is nothing more than a standard benefit that most private and all federal employees receive — including the President.” Sensebrenner believes that if the lawsuit is successful, only the young who can remain on their parents insurance will work for Congress, because the more experienced, older staff members will leave for a job that provides better benefits.
“Senator Johnson should spend his time legislating rather than litigating as our country is facing big problems that must be addressed by Congress — not the courts,” Sensenbrenner said. “All Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, but this politically motivated lawsuit only takes public attention away from how bad all of Obamacare really is and focuses it on a trivial issue. Fortunately, Senator Johnson’s suit is likely frivolous and will not achieve the result he’s seeking.”
Johnson reacted to Sensebrenner’s comments, saying that, “I am disappointed and puzzled by his disagreement with me on an issue that all but two congressional Republicans (including Congressman Sensenbrenner) have voted in favor of — ending the special treatment for members of Congress and their staffs under Obamacare.” He does not see his suit as “frivolous,” but instead, it is about “basic fairness.” “Americans are justifiably outraged when members of Congress exempt themselves from the very laws they impose on everyone else. With the help of President Obama, that is exactly what Democrats have done once again.”
Johnson will discuss the suit Monday, when he holds a press conference, appearing with Paul Clement, and Rick Esenberg. Clement is a partner at Bancroft PLLC, and was the 43rd Solicitor General of the United States. He has also argued over 70 cases before the Supreme Court. Esenberg is the Founder, President, and General Counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.