And so it begins. It sounds like the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is finally going all-in, with news Friday that Speaker John Boehner and the House GOP have sued the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act, arguing that President Obama's use of executive authority in the law's implementation is illegal. In short, they're taking aim at the administration, the President, and the signature political achievement of his tenure.
By filing the suit, Boehner is making good on a longstanding threat — he first suggested he was considering this back in June, when he pledged to sue on a range of different executive actions, including new Environmental Protection Agency standards on carbon emissions, and the 2012 decision to halt the deportations of some young undocumented immigrants.
As for the timing of the announcement, well, it's pretty convenient for the Republicans. It'd be no surprise if they'd decided to time the suit to coincide with President Obama's major executive order on immigration reform last night, but it's worth noting that it actually has nothing to do with that — this lawsuit is explicitly about the so-called Obamacare law, the GOP's longtime, loathed obsession, and whether the President exceeded his authority in implementing it.
The GOP could proceed with another suit against Obama over his immigration order, to be sure, but it would require another, separate vote for approval. Although with a Republican-controlled Congress right around the corner, getting reliable votes to sue, rebuke, or stymie the White House in any fashion is likely to get a whole lot easier.
In a statement released Friday, Boehner blasted the administration's wielding of executive authority — which, it bears mentioning, was an even bigger staple of the George W. Bush administration, and has robust historical and judicial precedents — claiming Obama is ignoring the will of the people.
Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own without a vote of Congress. 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 Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.
In truth, this is a hard story to suss out if you're not well-versed on the history of executive power, and whether the administration or Obama himself has gone over the line in exercising it. I can't claim that kind of precise knowledge, though people far better read on the subject than I have argued Obama's executive actions have been legal, and well within the realm of normal Presidential authority. Of course, conservative-minded observers have decried this, and therein lies the problem — like so many facets of American life, our sky-high levels of political polarization can make it hard to know who you can trust. But, suffice it to say, a number of establishment legal minds have voiced heavy skepticism that this lawsuit will carry any weight.
It could also imperil public perception of the GOP's intentions moving forward, and that's something the party should be considering. In spite of their rollicking win in the 2014 midterms — as a big a bloodbath, in political terms, as you're likely to see — there's something to be said for not immediately launching broadsides at the White House, lest you earn a reputation for hostility. This would certainly be an issue if, say, the GOP ever thought about trying to impeach Obama — just look at how well that worked against Bill Clinton — but the optics of congressional lawsuits descending on the administration immediately after the GOP's ascent to power could easily backfire.
Images: Getty Images (2)