by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The headlines were predictable: If President Trump halts Obamacare subsidies for insurance companies, the Congressional Budget Office predicts, premiums for “Silver” plans will skyrocket by 20 percent next year. Buried halfway through the CBO’s report, however, was an important qualification: The executive branch could stop the payments “of its own volition or in response to a court order.”
You see, terminating the “BAILOUTS for insurance companies,” as President Trump has threatened to do, would not be an act of sabotage but rather a welcome step toward promoting the rule of law. Congress has never appropriated the funding for the subsidies, and every penny paid to the insurers is unlawful. For two years congressional Republicans argued the payments were illegal, and they even sued the Obama administration to halt them. Last year, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the payments were unconstitutional.
Yet, remarkably, for the first seven months of the Trump administration, the payments have continued without disruption. Even more remarkably, Speaker Paul Ryan — who commenced the initial investigation into the payments — is content to allow the administration to keep breaking the law.
Congress’s only true option is to follow the Constitution and appropriate the funds. Otherwise, members can only look the other way while the separation of powers is being violated.