By Zach Toillion
After a charged debate last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted for a historically unprecedented piece of legislation that authorizes House Speaker John Boehner to sue President Obama on behalf of the House.
The basis for the litigation, House Republicans argue, is that Obama exceeded his executive power in delaying a component of the Affordable Care Act that mandated the majority of employers provide health insurance for full time workers. The vote was 225-201 and was strictly party-line with all “nay” votes coming from congressional Democrats and all “yea” votes coming from Republicans. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) did not vote on the measure but had previously expressed support for it. All other Republican members of the Tennessee delegation voted in favor of the measure while Tennessee’s two Democratic representatives voted against it.
Hours before the official vote, Obama, speaking in Kansas City, blasted the move. “They’re mad because I’m doing my job. We can do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit,” later adding, “Stop being mad all the time, stop just hating all the time.”
Obama’s speech echoed previous remarks in early July, “Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.” Speaker Boehner, who first announced his intention to sue the president on June 25 remarked, “This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution we swore an oath to.”
Potential 2016 candidates expressed support for the action. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for a similar lawsuit based on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in early May. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filed a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration over NSA surveillance in February. Former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan voted in favor of the measure. “There is just no confidence or faith that the president will faithfully discharge his duties in executing and implementing the laws as written by Congress.”
Democrats were eager to hold a press conference immediately after the vote, pointing out several Republicans had called for Obama’s impeachment and decried the move as a political stunt. Since Boehner’s intention to bring a lawsuit against the president became a public story, congressional Democrats have raised more than $7.6 million in political donations.
Both political parties see the measure as an opportunity to further their political interests. Republicans believe they are serving as a check on executive power, namely executive orders. Democrats have used the vote as a prelude to impeachment and an example of Republican overreach. What is clear is that both political parties will attempt to use the upcoming litigation as political opportunism.