Ron Johnson Lawsuit Over Affordable Care Act Gets Hearing

Johnson Claims That Congressional Staff Subsidies For Health Care Are Special Protection

Sen. Ron Johnson, right during a convening of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Public Domain.

A federal judge will hold a hearing Monday to decide whether U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has standing to sue over a piece of the Affordable Care Act that affects members of Congress.

Johnson’s lawsuit contends the Obama administration overstepped its executive authority when it granted members of Congress and their staff subsidies to help pay for health insurance. The senator said that this amounts to a special protection for members of Congress, one he thinks they ought not have.

“The public sees members of Congress carve out special treatment, and that erodes that trust,” he said. “So I wanted for myself, as an individual member, to be on the same level playing field.”

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What Judge William Griesbach will hear arguments on is whether or not Johnson even has the standing to bring this lawsuit. Johnson has to prove he’s been harmed, which could be tough because Johnson and his wife buy private insurance. Beyond that, the Obama administration argues the health subsidy is a benefit, which by definition is not harmful.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig said Johnson’s lawsuit would affect more than just members of Congress.

“It’s really been a very mean-spirited lawsuit,” Kraig said. “What it’s about is whether congressional staff — there are a lot more staff than members of Congress — are going to have their employer continue to pay the employer’s percentage.”

Whether or not Johnson’s lawsuit proceeds, it’s already had a bumpy ride. U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, called it an “unfortunate political stunt,” saying that if the senator succeeded, Congress would lose some of its best staff.

The liberal group One Wisconsin Now also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Johnson of failing to disclose legal fees associated with his lawsuit.