Boehner drafts lawsuit against Obama

McClatchy Washington BureauJuly 10, 2014 

— House Speaker John Boehner Thursday released a draft resolution of his threatened lawsuit against President Barack Obama, alleging that Obama exceeded his executive authority in delaying a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

“The Constitution states that the president must faithfully execute the laws, and spells out that only the Legislative Branch has the power to legislate,” Boehner said in a statement. “The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws – at times even boasting about it.”

In the draft, Boehner maintains that Obama exceeded his authority by delaying the employer mandate, a key provision of the 2010 health care law that congressional Republicans have aggressively sought to kill.

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing next week on the resolution authorizing the Republican-led lawsuit.

Last July, after months of consulting with concerned employers, the administration announced it was delaying implementing the mandate until 2015. Under the law, companies with 50 or more employees would face fines as high as $3,000 per-employee if they didn’t offer affordable insurance.

At the time of the delay announcement, White House special adviser Valerie Jarrett said employers needed more time to comply with the new rules.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work.”

Though Boehner says he’s aiming at the employer mandate, the resolution’s language states that the Ohio Republican can “initiate or intervene” in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives” on “any provision” of the ACA.

Obama had mocked Boehner in recent days for threatening to sue him. He made light of Boehner’s threat again Thursday in Austin, Tex.

“So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did,” he said. “Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figured out.”

Thursday evening, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement calling the draft resolution “disappointing” and “a political stunt.”

“At a time when Washington should be working to expend economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the president on behalf of working Americans,” the statement read. “As the president said today, he is doing his job – lawsuit or not – and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs.”

Other Democrats were outraged. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, noted that first Republicans wanted to kill ACA and now “they’re spending millions to sue the president over ACA.”

“This resolution is an insult to our political process and is merely a distraction from the real problems occurring within the Republican Party,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

A lawsuit could be a pricey proposition. The House resolution authorizes hiring outside lawyers, which is something Republican lawmakers previously did when they sought to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court.

As of last year, the House authorized spending up to $3 million for the outside legal assistance on the Defense of Marriage Act case.

The House expresses its institutional positions through a body called, since 1993, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. It’s comprised of the top three Republican and top two Democratic leaders in the House, giving the party in power the clout to take the legal actions it wants.

Boehner insists his lawsuit wouldn’t be a prelude to impeaching Obama, something that some on the political right propose. Earlier this week, Boehner said he disagreed with former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that Obama should be impeached.

Instead, some political analysts believe Boehner’s potential action is a pre-emptive strike to keep elements of his party from pursuing impeachment, mindful that the House Republican’s 1998 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton sparked a backlash that cost them seats in that year’s mid-term elections.

“I actually think the suit in some ways would be an attempt to head of a much worse problem, the I-word, impeachment,” Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the center-right American Enterprise Institute, said Monday on the NPR-syndicated “Diane Rehm Show.”

Anita Kumar and Mike Doyle contributed

Email: wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @williamgdouglas.

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