Politics & Policy

Why I Sued the President

(Pool Image/Getty Images)
West Virginia’s attorney general steps up.

President Obama has dared those who criticize his repeated failure to faithfully execute the laws to “sue me,” believing that no one can show the injury needed to do so. But when one of the administration’s many lawless actions shifted certain responsibilities to the states, we gained the standing to sue that so many others have lacked. So on July 29, I accepted the president’s invitation and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of West Virginia to hold the Obama administration accountable for its illegal conduct. Though we are a small state — with approximately 1.8 million people — our lawsuit speaks for the millions more who wish to sue but cannot.

The president and his administration have ignored the law on a breathtaking range of issues. For example, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose new environmental rules that will devastate coal miners and raise electricity prices sky-high, even though the EPA admits that the “literal” terms of the Clean Air Act prohibit the regulations. Similarly, after he failed to pass immigration reform through Congress, the president decided to ignore the laws on the books and give out work permits as he pleases. He did the same thing with the Affordable Care Act, giving billions of dollars of tax credits that the law does not authorize. Finally, when Americans learned that the president could not keep his promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” he ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to create an “administrative fix” — to stop enforcing politically unpopular parts of the law.

Americans from both political parties have decried this lawlessness. Citizens from across the country have called on the president to work with Congress to change policies in a lawful manner. Regardless of whether one supports the policy changes or not, the president cannot play by different rules than everyone else. No one is above the law.

Even some courts have stepped in. This June, the Supreme Court struck down one of President Obama’s unlawful greenhouse-gas regulations, rebuking the president’s attempt to “rewrite clear statutory terms.” So, too, in July, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down the president’s attempt to give out tax credits clearly not permitted under the law. Both courts reaffirmed the “principle of legislative supremacy” — that Congress, not the president, makes law.

Unfortunately, even public and judicial outcries have not stopped the president. He has selectively refused to enforce some of the laws Congress passed. In fact, reports suggest that he may rewrite even more laws soon.

Our lawsuit specifically challenges the president’s “administrative fix” to Obamacare, which was designed to remedy a flaw within the Affordable Care Act that resulted in Americans with health insurance losing their coverage. But rather than properly change the law, which Congress said it was willing to do, the president unilaterally “fixed” it by ceasing federal enforcement of the plan-canceling provisions. Because of the way the law is written, this abdication by the federal government had the unusual effect of shifting enforcement responsibility to the states. This increased responsibility gives us the standing to sue.

It is important to point out that our goal is not to put individual health-insurance policies at risk. We just want the president to follow the laws as written, as the Constitution requires him to do. Congress — not the president — gets to write the laws. Here, the law provides that the federal government “must” enforce those provisions of the law. Our suit asks the court to require the Obama administration to fix any problems with the law by working with Congress, not by executive edict.

President Obama’s disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law must be stopped. A president is not a king. That is why I sued the Obama administration.

— Patrick Morrisey is the attorney general of West Virginia.

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