U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell

Managed Healthcare Executive

Stuart M. Gerson, a Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Health Care and Life Sciences practices, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, authored an article in Managed Healthcare Executive titled “U.S. House Of Representatives v. Burwell.”

Following is an excerpt:

The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They are not empowered to render advisory opinions or abstract policy analyses, but are restricted by Article III of our constitution to adjudging real “cases or controversies.” That is, matters of genuine dispute brought by parties that can set forth a cognizable injury in fact resulting from the challenged activity. The ability to bring such a federal suit is known as “standing,” and Congress and its members rarely are allowed this status. Indeed, Judge Collyer’s opinion appears to represent the only time that congressional standing has ever been approved in a case about appropriations. It is easy to see why.

Congress’s appropriations power derives from the constitution’s Article I mandate that it is only the legislative branch, i.e., Congress, that has the power to tax and spend and, in support of that power: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” Where the executive undertakes a spending activity that Congress believes is unauthorized, Congress generally needn’t sue; it simply can exercise its power of the purse to cut off funding.