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Three U.S. House members from Western North Carolina, all whom having cast dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act in recent years, approved a Republican measure Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama for circumventing Congress in last year’s decision to delay one of the law’s key provisions.
Reps. Patrick McHenry, Mark Meadows and Virginia Foxx all voted in favor of a bill authorizing their party to take Obama to court over a 2013 White House order to delay the so-called “employer mandate,” which would have been implemented this year. The lawsuit, which comes less than 100 days before November’s mid-term elections, is seen as a reaction to the president’s repeated use of executive power during his years in office.
The vote fell largely on party lines, passing 225-201.
Meadows, McHenry and Foxx were all silent following the roll call, refraining from issuing press statements or making comments on social media regarding their support for the measure. Following last year’s delay of the employer mandate, Meadows made waves on Capitol Hill when his office circulated a letter to colleagues suggesting U.S. House Speaker John Boehner defund the law through appropriations. The move, which ultimately led to a 16-day shutdown of the federal government last October, earned Meadows a headline from CNN describing him as “The architect of the government shutdown.”
As passed in 2010, the health law would have required employers with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage for their workers, or pay a penalty to the government of $2,000 per employee if coverage was not provided. Last July, the Obama administration announced plans to delay the provision until 2015, well past the date of this year’s midterm. At the time, some companies had already begun cutting back on workers’ hours in order to avoid the penalties.
Although Boehner dismissed Democrats’ claims of a GOP plan to arrive at impeachment proceedings for Obama, the move was seen by many as a way to rile up conservative voters before the midterm without risking party credibility. According to a report from Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill, several Republicans had already indicated plans to fundraise off the lawsuit.
Despite the buzz, court proceedings for the lawsuit will likely take months, if not years — potentially past the conclusion of Obama’s second term. Estimates for how much the legal action would cost were unclear.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Obama appeared unfazed.
“They’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they’re mad I’m doing my job,” Obama said in an economics speech in Kansas City, Mo., according to the Post.
“And by the way, I’ve told them I’d be happy to do it with you. The only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you’re not doing anything,” he said of Congress.
House votes to reform VA
In another vote Wednesday, Meadows, McHenry and Foxx joined the majority of their fellow House members to support a $17 billion bill aimed at reforming the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Outrage over the problematic department, which became mired in scandal this year over the repeated coverup of inadequate care for U.S. veterans, led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Sec. Eric Shinseki two months ago.
Along with providing $10 billion to increase access to VA care, the bill requires the agency to authorize eligible veterans to receive care from non-VA providers who are participants in Medicare. In order to be eligible, a veteran must either live 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, or have been unable to secure an appointment at a VA facility within a 30-day time period.
The measure also provides $5 billion for the hiring of additional physicians and VA staff, a move geared at reducing unreasonable wait times reported at facilities across the nation, which ultimately led to the deaths of up to 40 veterans waiting for care at a Phoenix facility.
In a news release, Meadows praised the bill’s passage.
“Today, I was proud to join my colleagues in the House in voting for a bipartisan Veterans Affairs reform bill that will address the many issues plaguing the VA,” Meadows said. “Ensuring that veterans and their families in Western North Carolina receive the proper care they deserve is one of my highest priorities. This bill will go a long way in reforming the deep, systemic issues within the VA and I’m grateful to my colleague, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), for leading the charge on it.
In a post on Facebook, McHenry said he was “proud” to have helped approve the bipartisan legislation.
“Never again should our nation’s heroes be subjected to the horrendous treatment seen at the Phoenix VA and other facilities around the country,” McHenry said.
Foxx also trumpeted the measure in a news release.
“It is critically important that we provide high-quality, timely care for those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country,” Foxx said. “There is more that must be done to reform the Veterans Administration, but this legislation is a good start.”
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass and be sent to Obama’s desk for signature.