Law School Case Brief
United States House of Representatives v. Burwell - 130 F. Supp. 3d 53 (D.D.C. 2015)
Standing is part and parcel of Article III's limitation on the judicial power [*65] of the United States, which extends only to cases or controversies. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; Arizona, 135 S. Ct. at 2663. The strictures of Article III standing are by now "familiar." United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675, 2685, 186 L. Ed. 2d 808 (2013). Standing requires (1) the plaintiff to have suffered an injury in fact that is both (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, as opposed to conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury to be traceable to the defendant's actions; and (3) the injury to be redressable by a favorable decision of the court. See id. at 2685-86 (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-62, 112 S. Ct. 2130, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1992)).
Article I of the United States Constitution established the Congress, which comprises a House of Representatives and a Senate. U.S. Const. art. I, § 1. Only these two bodies, acting together, can pass laws—including the laws necessary to spend public money. In this respect, Article I is very clear: "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . ." U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 7.
Through this lawsuit, the House of Representatives complains that Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Jacob Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, and their respective departments (collectively the Secretaries) have spent billions of unappropriated dollars to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The House further alleges that Secretary Lew and Treasury have, under the guise of implementing regulations, effectively amended the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate by delaying its effect and narrowing its scope. The Secretaries move to dismiss, arguing that the House lacks standing to sue. They argue that only the Executive has authority to implement the laws, and urge this Court to stay out of a quintessentially political fight in which the House is already well armed. The House opposes, adamant that it has been injured in several concrete ways, none of which can be ameliorated through the usual political processes.
Can the House can sue the Secretaries with regard to the non-appropriation claims?
Although no precedent dictates the outcome, the case implicates the constitutionality of another Branch's actions and thus merits an "especially rigorous" standing analysis. The House sues, as an institutional plaintiff, to preserve its power of the purse and to maintain constitutional equilibrium between the Executive and the Legislature. If its non-appropriation claims have merit, which the Secretaries deny, the House has been injured in a concrete and particular way that is traceable to the Secretaries and remediable in court. The Court concludes that the House has standing to pursue those constitutional claims.
In contrast, the House's claims that Secretary Lew improperly amended the Affordable Care Act concern only the implementation of a statute, not adherence to any specific constitutional requirement. The House does not have standing to pursue those claims. The Secretaries' motion to dismiss will be denied as to the former and granted as to the latter.
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