GOP Senator In Lawsuit: I Could Lose Re-Election If Obamacare Helps Me

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2013 file photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Enveloped by political gridlock, President Barack Obama is reaching out to rank-and-file Republicans, hosting G... FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2013 file photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Enveloped by political gridlock, President Barack Obama is reaching out to rank-and-file Republicans, hosting GOP senators for dinner at the White House Wednesday night and then visiting Capitol Hill next week for separate meetings with Senate and House Republicans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Stopping members of Congress from receiving their government employer contribution when they purchase health coverage on an Obamacare exchange was a hot topic last fall during the government shutdown. It was one of the many mechanisms that the GOP tried to use to extract a concession from Democrats on the law.

Though that ploy failed, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) didn’t give up. He filed a lawsuit in federal court in January, attempting to undo the administrative rule allowing members and their office staff to keep their employer subsidy. The government’s lawyers retorted that Johnson had no standing to challenge, and part of their argument was that this is a benefit for Johnson. What harm could he claim?

A federal judge will hear oral arguments Monday on the standing question, according to USA Today, and he’ll consider a rebuttal from Johnson. Part of that rebuttal: Receiving this benefit under Obamacare could hurt Johnson when he runs for re-election in 2016.

“The ACA eliminated congressional subsidies so that Members of Congress and their staffs would experience the health care law’s highs and lows just like ordinary citizens,” a legal brief filed by Johnson’s lawyers in April says. “By circumventing this statutory mandate and restoring legislators’ favored status, the (rule) drives a wedge between Senator Johnson and his constituents and thus harms his personal reputation and electoral prospects.”

“This sort of personal political harm has long been enough for an individual legislator to challenge unlawful government action,” the brief concludes.

The administrative rule, issued by the Office of Personnel Management in August, clarified confusion about whether the federal government could keep providing insurance subsidies to lawmakers and staff after Obamacare required them to purchase coverage through the exchanges created by the law. OPM said in August that they could continue receiving the federal employer contribution.

His electoral prospects aren’t the entirety of Johnson’s argument that he has standing to challenge the OPM rule. The April brief also asserts that it forces him to participate in the rule’s “unlawful regime” and “take part in its law-breaking.”

But Johnson’s possibly diminished chances of re-election are still key to his case that the OPM rule causes him real personal harm and he therefore has the right to challenge it in court.

“By thrusting a favored status upon Senator Johnson, the OPM Rule drives a wedge between him and his constituents that causes him cognizable reputational and electoral injury,” the brief says. “Being forced to cooperate in unlawful conduct will certainly make a Senator unpopular with his constituents.”

Johnson Brief Obamacare Lawsuit

Latest DC

Notable Replies

  1. just another Repuk Jerk

  2. Wait… what? How will he help his chances for re-election by getting laughed out of court?

  3. If Johnson has noticed a lessening of cost for run-of-the-mill family prescriptions he’s already received il bacio della morte.

  4. Johnson won’t lose his election because Obamacare helps him.

    He’ll lose because he seems to believe that forcing his staffers and colleagues to pay more for their health insurance is somehow a priority for his constituents.

    The people of Wisconsin are not stupid. We all understand how employee provided insurance works, whether you call it a subsidy, or part of a standard compensation package, or just commonsense.

  5. How about the possibility that he’ll also lose his re-election bid due to running in Wisconsin as a wingnut during a Presidential election year.

Continue the discussion at

51 more replies


Avatar for system1 Avatar for webcelt Avatar for jw1 Avatar for jeffgee1 Avatar for erikthered Avatar for foundryman Avatar for avattoir Avatar for eggrollian Avatar for clemmers Avatar for dopper0189 Avatar for wiscojoe Avatar for jimtoday Avatar for hychka Avatar for mantan Avatar for maxi2013 Avatar for borisjimbo Avatar for ottnott Avatar for fitley Avatar for DelrayDame Avatar for radhika1226 Avatar for Abes48 Avatar for darrtown Avatar for midgebaker Avatar for sosezyou

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: