Sen. Ron Johnson told Newsmax TV on Tuesday that he sued the Obama administration over the Obamacare exemptions for Congress and their staffs because the White House had "no legal authority to just change the law."
"It's simply an issue of basic fairness as well as also all about upholding the rule of law," the Wisconsin Republican told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "If they don't like it, they should come to Congress and they should pass a new law that would make changes to the law."
Johnson filed suit in federal district court
on Monday against President Barack Obama and the Office of Personnel Management, which decided last year to provide contributions to members of Congress and their staffs, as it does for other government workers.
Johnson said the decision represented special treatment for Congress, was illegal, and violated the Constitution.
"Americans have an expectation, a justified expectation, that members of Congress should live and be subject to the laws, the letter of the law, as most of the rest of the Americans — and that's really what this law is all about."
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In an interview later on "The Steve Malzberg Show" — also on Newsmax TV — Johnson elaborated further:
"The next wave of cancellations is not going to be individuals . . . It's going to be people who get their healthcare through the employers. That's pre-tax, tax-advantaged, employer contributions.
"When those individuals, those millions of Americans, lose their employer-sponsored care, they're going to have to buy coverage through the exchanges in after-tax dollars," Johnson said. "Members of Congress and their staffs are going to get a pre-tax, tax-advantaged, employer contribution unlike any other American. That's unfair."
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The litigation seeks to force Obama to respect the law, Johnson said.
"What do you do about a president who simply has no respect for the constraints afforded to him by the Constitution, who is not upholding his oath to faithfully execute the law?" Johnson asked in the Newsmax interview. "This is one situation where a member of Congress is standing to provide that long-overdue check on the president."
Johnson, 58, dismissed criticism that the lawsuit could prevent Congress from hiring bright, young talent because many would start out with low salaries and would be unable to afford quality healthcare coverage.
"Every member of Congress has a pretty good-sized budget, and they really can afford to hire good people and actually provide them with benefits. The point being is that we have got Democratic senators here who are turning a total deaf ear to the pleas of the American public who are really experiencing the real harm and damage of Obamacare.
"Until those members have the full experience, feel the pain themselves of what they've done to other Americans, they simply are going to keep their head in the sand, they're going to plow forward — and they're not going to act responsibly to start repairing the damage and looking to future damages of this totally unworkable law," Johnson said.
The first-term congressman's lawsuit was attacked
by fellow Wisconsin and Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who called it an "unfortunate political stunt."
He noted that Sensenbrenner was among GOP House members who voted last year to end the special exemption for Congress.
"I respect Congressman Sensenbrenner," Johnson told Newsmax. "I'm disappointed. I'm puzzled. I'm not quite sure where Congressman Sensenbrenner is coming from, because I'm just trying to do through the courts what the House passed with the total support of Republicans except for two."
Johnson said he filed the lawsuit because "all the good things the House does dies in the Senate."
"We've taken the legislative avenue and, unfortunately, President Obama got re-elected and Sen. Harry Reid is in firm control of the Senate," he said. "Of course, President Obama would veto it anyway.
"Until we actually start winning elections, take home the Senate, put in a Republican president who's actually going to repeal this law once and for all, in 2016, this is our only course of action. When a member of Congress finally has a chance to obtain standing to overturn something like this, I certainly feel I have an obligation to do that.
"We have got to maintain that delicate balance," Johnson added. "These checks and balances between the branches — during my lifetime, I have seen presidential authority and power grow, generally at the expense of Congress."
Even though public opinion of Congress is low, it is still "important that Congress maintains its position so we can provide a check on the administration, certainly President Obama, who knows no bounds by the Constitution."
Also in his Newsmax interview, Johnson ripped Obama's Middle East policies, saying they resulted in the "chickens coming home to roost" when al-Qaida operatives took over the Iraqi city of Fallujah over the weekend.
"This is a tragedy," said the congressman, who also is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "After all of the sacrifices, all of the blood and treasure that were spent trying to save lives and provide some moxy in that region . . . it's just a tragedy that we didn't leave a stabilizing force in Iraq.
"These are tragic consequences — and a lot of this is really also caused by this president's utter failure to lead.
"Whether we like it or not, America is the world's superpower. We are the world's leader," Johnson said. "When we fail to lead, some very bad things happen in this world."
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