Supreme Court is asked to hear PLF’s “Origination Clause” challenge to Obamacare
Washington, D.C.; October 26, 2015: On behalf of small business owner and decorated Iraq War veteran Matt Sissel, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) today asked the Supreme Court to hear its constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). PLF’s case of Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services targets the individual mandate tax specifically, but calls for Obamacare to be struck down in its entirety, because it is a massive tax-raising bill that began in the Senate instead of the House, as the Constitution requires.
“Every day it becomes more clear that Obamacare is bad medicine for America,” said PLF Principal Attorney Timothy Sandefur, who represents Sissel. “Obamacare cancels freedom of choice in people’s medical decisions and swamps healthcare providers with micromanaging federal dictates. And more and more, it is triggering unaffordable insurance-premium hikes for tens of millions of families and individuals.
“But beyond its assault on healthcare freedom, Obamacare represents an attack on some core constitutional principles and protections for taxpayers,” Sandefur continued. “Obamacare raises taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars, but it was enacted in violation of the Origination Clause, which was designed to safeguard against arbitrary and reckless taxation. Obamacare was unveiled in the Senate, even though the Origination Clause requires taxes to start in the House, the body closest to the people.
“Pacific Legal Foundation and Matt Sissel are asking the Supreme Court to accept our challenge to Obamacare, in order to uphold and enforce the Constitution’s safeguards against arbitrary taxation, and to liberate Americans from a harmful law that was imposed in defiance of those procedures and protections,” said Sandefur.
Obamacare raises taxes massively — and unconstitutionally
PLF’s lawsuit focuses on Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires Americans to buy a federally prescribed insurance plan or pay what the Supreme Court in 2012 called “a tax on going without health insurance.” But according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), that is just one of more than a dozen revenue-related planks in Obamacare that collectively will impose more than $800 billion in new levies. The individual mandate alone amounts to a $54 billion tax on individuals over ten years, and $113 billion on businesses, according to the JCT.
Yet Obamacare was not enacted in compliance with constitutional procedures for raising taxes. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution requires that all bills for raising revenue must start in the House, to keep the taxing power close to the people. But Obamacare began in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid took an unrelated House bill (a measure to help veterans buy homes, which raised no revenue), gutted it, and inserted the language of Obamacare.
The D.C. Circuit subverts the Origination Clause, underscoring the need for Supreme Court review
In ruling against PLF’s lawsuit, and sparing Obamacare from Origination Clause review, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit propounded a new doctrine that allows courts and lawmakers to subjectively exempt revenue-raising bills from the Origination Clause. The panel held that, if courts determine that revenue-raising is not a tax bill’s “main object or aim,” the legislation is excused from the Constitution’s requirement for tax bills to originate in the House.
The full appeals court declined to review that holding, but four dissenting judges argued that their colleagues’ ruling “upsets the longstanding balance of power between the House and the Senate” on a “quite important” question. Indeed, the dissenters argued that the holding “degrades” this important constitutional provision.
“The appellate court’s decision subverts the Origination Clause, by giving courts and politicians a road map for evading its requirements and its protections for taxpayers,” said Sandefur. “Under the new doctrine from the appellate court, judges and politicians can shield revenue-raising bills from the Origination Clause on their own say-so, simply by declaring that a tax measure’s purposes disqualify it from the need to be launched in the lower House. We believe the Supreme Court needs to hear this case, because the integrity of an important constitutional provision has been called into question, by an appellate decision that amounts to a sweeping transfer of power to the judiciary.”
In a separate case this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals called the Origination Clause challenge to Obamacare a question of “exceptional importance.”
PLF’s lawsuit aims to take down all of Obamacare
PLF’s lawsuit takes on the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Because the individual mandate is central to the design of Obamacare, PLF’s suit asks that the entire law be struck down.
Plaintiff Matt Sissel: a small business owner who loves liberty
Matt Sissel, the plaintiff in this constitutional challenge to Obamacare, is a small business owner who chooses to pay medical expenses on his own. He objects on financial, philosophical, and constitutional grounds to being ordered to purchase a health plan he does not need or want.
“I am in this case to defend freedom and the Constitution,” said Sissel. “I strongly believe that I should be free — and all Americans should be free — to decide how to provide for my own medical needs, and not be forced to purchase a federally dictated healthcare plan. I am very concerned about Congress ignoring the constitutional road map for enacting taxes, because those procedures are there for a purpose — to protect our freedom.”
Matt is an artist and owner of an art business, based in the state of Washington. He is also an Iraq War veteran. As a member of the Iowa Army National Guard, he served two years in Iraq as a combat medic, providing medical care to the sick and wounded. During his second year, which he volunteered for, his duties also included training and advising the Iraqi military, and he received the Bronze Star.
“I proudly wore the American uniform, to defend liberty and the Constitution,” said Sissel. “It is dispiriting to see our lawmakers treat the rules set out in the Constitution with disrespect, as if they are just suggestions, or as if members of Congress are too important to follow them.
“I am grateful that PLF is representing me without charge and allowing me to take a stand for principles, for my rights, and for the integrity of our Constitution.”
The case is Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. PLF’s petition for writ of certiorari, along with other briefs, a litigation backgrounder, videos, and podcasts may be found at PLF’s website: www.pacificlegal.org.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and free enterprise, in courts nationwide. PLF represents Matt Sissel, as with the clients in all of our cases, without charging attorneys’ fees.