House Republicans caused a partial government shutdown beginning at midnight in a bid to delay the individual mandate in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, but at noon Tuesday some of the law's opponents unveiled a different tactic: make the president implement it.
A lawsuit announced by the pro-transparency nonprofit Judicial Watch seeks to force the Obama administration to implement the law's employer health insurance mandate.
Obama's deputies announced July 2 that part of the law would be delayed one year from its initial Jan. 1, 2014, start date. The employer mandate requires companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance or face fines and is reportedly inspiring companies to cut employee hours to dodge the threshold.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton unveiled the lawsuit during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Fitton argued that Obama is "lawlessly delaying" the employer mandate to avoid losses in the 2014 election, and he says only Congress has the authority to push back the start date.
"The president wants to avoid the consequences of his own law, but there are ways to do that legally," Fitton said. Obama, he added, is not "a one-man Congress."
"We don't believe there is any discretion for the president to do this and we're asking for the courts to intervene and uphold the rule of law," said Fitton, who wants the law to "fail as quickly as possible" by way of "vigorous enforcement."
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on behalf of Kawa Orthodontics, which has 70 employees and says it paid $5,000 in legal fees to prepare for the original 2014 deadline.
"I am not here to dismantle the law, I am here to enforce the law," said Larry Kawa, the company's owner. "[Obama] changed the law for political convenience," he said, "[and] I would suggest to you here today that he has no more power to do that than you or I."
Like Fitton, Kawa would like Congress to repeal the law. "I am not in favor of Obamacare," he said, "but it's the law and I respect the law and I hope we have a president who will do the same."
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are named in the lawsuit. The suit seeks an injunction preventing the employer mandate from being delayed and a declaratory judgment saying the administration lacks the power to delay the mandate.
"The individual mandate was intended to work together with the employer mandate," Fitton said. "However monstrous this law, it becomes even more damaging to the people with this essential pillar being knocked out."
Without the employer mandate, citizens affected by the law's individual mandate must purchase insurance on their own, facilitated by state-level health insurance "exchanges" that kicked into operation Tuesday.
The law's individual mandate, which forces nearly every American adult to have health insurance, was not delayed by the administration. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, it will compel most Americans to purchase insurance from private companies or face a fine.