House files to intervene in Texas health law case

Chamber will vote for similar action next week as well

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks with Democratic women members of the House after a group photo on the East Front of the Capitol on January 4, 2019. On Friday, she directed House lawyers to intervene in the lawsuit challenging the 2010 health law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawyers for the House announced on Friday they had filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought by conservative state attorneys general targeting the 2010 health care law.

The motion comes after the House voted Thursday night on a part of its rules package, which included authorization for the House to join the lawsuit, Texas v. U.S.

A federal judge ruled last month the entire health law should fall after Congress ended the penalty for not having insurance coverage and Democratic attorneys general defending the law on Thursday filed a motion to appeal the ruling.

“On Day One of the new Congress, the new Democratic House took action to protect people with pre-existing conditions and all Americans’ health care,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement. “The Affordable Care Act and all its life-saving protections are the law of the land. While the Administration refuses to meet its responsibilities to defend the laws, the House of Representatives is acting to uphold the constitutionality of this law and protect the health care of every American.”

The House’s filing argues that Congress has the authority to defend federal laws when a federal agency does not. The Justice Department declined to defend the part of the law protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter is representing the House along with co-counsels Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the former solicitor general who argued on behalf of the Obama administration in the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that upheld the law, and Brianne Gorod, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center. 

The House is set to vote on Jan. 9 on a standalone resolution to intervene in the lawsuit by freshman Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, Pelosi spokesman Henry Connolly said on Twitter. That resolution would be similar to Title III of the Democratic rules package detailing the authorization to intervene in the case.

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