Constitutional Law

Amended Suit Claims Obamacare Was Enacted in Violation of Origination Clause


A new argument has surfaced in a pending challenge to the Obama administration’s health care law.

An amended complaint filed this week by the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that Congress violated the origination clause when it adopted the law. The provision requires all bills for raising revenue to originate in the House. The Volokh Conspiracy notes the new argument, announced in a press release and on the PLF Liberty Blog.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with the court’s four liberal justices to uphold the law in the June decision, writing that Congress had the authority to uphold the insurance mandate under its taxing power. The mandate requires most Americans to purchase insurance or pay a penalty.

The U.S. government had focused on two other arguments—that Congress had the power to enact the bill under the commerce clause, or under the necessary and proper clause. The taxing power was the government’s third backup argument, SCOTUSblog said at the time.

Congress itself had claimed the bill was not a tax, according to the PLF Liberty Blog, and none of the lawyers raised the origination clause issue in their arguments to the court. The June holding by the Supreme Court puts the origination clause issue into play, according to the PLF.

The PLF says the Senate originated the law because it used a “shell bill” procedure in which it scooped out the entire content of a House bill and substituted its own health insurance reforms.

The PLF’s new complaint, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, also seeks a declaration that Roberts’ views on the commerce clause represent binding precedent, rather than obiter dicta. Roberts said Congress did not have authority under the commerce clause to enact the insurance mandate, a view also held by four dissenting justices who did not join Roberts’ opinion, according to a PLF backgrounder.

The PLF suit had been put on hold pending the Supreme Court decision.

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