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A federal judge in Washington ruled for House Republicans Thursday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care law.
Judge Rosemary Collyer said a provision of the law provides money to insurance companies that was never appropriated by Congress, violating the Constitution's declaration that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law."
The provision at issue compensates insurance companies when they reduce out-of-pocket expenses for low income people covered under Obamacare. The government provides payments directly to Blue Cross, Aetna, and other companies.
For now, Thursday's ruling will have no effect on the heath care system. Though the judge ordered the government to stop making the payments, she put her own order on hold to give the government a chance to appeal, which it certainly will.
"The question is whether Congress appropriated the billions of dollars" that the government has spend on reimbursing the insurance companies, the judge said.
The Obama administration argued that the provision was so tightly woven into the way Obamacare works that the appropriation was obvious, when the law is read as a whole.
But the judge rejected that reading as "a most curious and convoluted argument whose mother was undoubtedly necessity."
The administration also argued that the House was not entitled to sue the government over an interpretation of federal law. But the judge said the case was about a constitutional violation, not an argument about a statute.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest predicted Republican opponents of the law would not prevail on appeal.
"They've been losing this fight for six years, and they will lose again."