Speaker of the House John Boehner plans to sue President Barack Obama over the president’s use of executive actions to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), the Ohio Republican announced Thursday.
Boehner recently penned an op-ed published to CNN.com, in which he expressed his reasoning behind a move to sue the commander-in-chief. The president jokingly responded during a speech: “So sue me.”
The Speaker has now acted on the threat, releasing a draft resolution authorizing the House of Representatives to sue the president for failing to enforce healthcare law as it was written.
In July 2013, the administration unexpectedly announced a one-year delay of the Obamacare provision that would mandate larger employers to provide coverage for their workers or pay hefty fines. That provision, originally supposed to take effect in 2014, was pushed back to 2015, then pushed back a second year for certain employers, according to the National Journal.
“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 in a statement. "That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”
The House Rules Committee will debate the resolution next Wednesday, with Republicans expected to support it and Democrats likely to criticize the move as a political stunt that wastes time and money, according to The Blaze. It is expected to pass the House late next week.
“As I’ve said, this isn't about Republicans versus Democrats; it’s about the Legislative Branch versus the Executive Branch, and above all protecting the Constitution,” Boehner said. “The Constitution states that the president must faithfully execute the laws, and spells out that only the Legislative Branch has the power to legislate.”
In his statement, he said Obama has set a dangerous precedent of presidential power for future White House residents.
“If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Legislative Branch, and the Constitution, and that is exactly what we will do,” Boehner said.
The president lashed out against the resolution in a speech on the economy in Austin, Texas. “You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay,” Obama said. “I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job while you don’t do your job.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the move “disappointing.”
“It is disappointing that Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a political stunt. At a time when Washington should be working to expand economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the President on behalf of hardworking Americans,” Earnest said in a statement.
“As the President said today, he is doing his job – lawsuit or not – and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs,” Earnest continued.
Jason Easley at the liberal newsletter PoliticusUSA called the move a “sad attempt to recapture the Republican magic of 2010.”
“Boehner and friends failed to repeal the ACA, so they have created a distraction in the hopes that their supporters won’t notice that they have been lied to for the last four years” regarding their promise to repeal the law, Easley wrote. He also believes that Boehner just handed Democrats an issue to campaign on, and that they will be more fired up about the lawsuit than Republicans.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the prospect of the lawsuit ridiculous, according to Fox News. "I make of it as subterfuge," she said. "They're doing nothing here. So they have to give some aura of activity."
The Republicans need "adult in that room," she added.
The House as an entire institution has never sued the president for failing to enforce a law before, Vox reported.
"The closest was that the Senate Watergate Committee sued President Nixon to get the Watergate tapes," Professor Charles Tiefer of University of Baltimore law school, an expert on separation of powers, said.
William & Mary law professor Neal Devins concurred. "There have been lawsuits between Congressional committees and high ranking executive officials over executive privilege claims," Devins told Vox, "but I am unaware of anything precisely like this possible case."
The vast majority of previous suits by members of Congress against the president have been dismissed for lack of standing. Legal analysts are skeptical that this suit will be any different.