The rule of the law and the separation of powers are indispensable to our system of government. And yet, according to House Republicans, the president has violated his oath of office one too many times by encroaching on the rights of the legislative branch and re-writing laws as he sees fit. Hence why Republican House Speaker John Boehner is filing a lawsuit against him.
Obviously, there are many examples of President Obama circumventing Congress to advance his legislative agenda, but the Speaker of the House ultimately decided to sue him for a very specific reason: He unilaterally delayed implementing a provision under the Affordable Care Act that was wholly outside his purview.
“Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate,” Boehner’s office said in a statement yesterday. “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. 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."
“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," he wrote. "The Constitution states that the president must faithfully execute the laws, and spells out that only the Legislative Branch has the power to legislate. The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws – at times even boasting about it. He has said that if Congress won’t make the laws he wants, he’ll go ahead and make them himself, and in the case of the employer mandate in his health care law, that’s exactly what he did. 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.”
The White House has dismissed the lawsuit as a “political stunt,” and Nancy Pelosi herself has described it as a “legal boondoggle doomed to fail.” Nonetheless, according to legal scholar Jonathan Turley, there’s a real possibility that this lawsuit is more than just political theatre (via The Daily Beast):
While Obama and his cheerleaders in the media sneer at the notion of executive overreach, noted constitutional scholar and George Washington Law School Professor Jonathan Turley believes Boehner’s suit could prevail. “I think there is a case against the president for exceeding his authority…I happen to agree with the president on many of his priorities and policies, but as I testified in Congress, I think that he has crossed the constitutional line,” Turley told MSNBC the day Boehner announced his suit.
“When the president went to Congress and said he would go it alone, it obviously raises a concern,” Turley added. “There’s no license for going it alone in our system, and what he’s done is very problematic. He has shifted $454 million of the ACA from appropriated purpose to another purpose. He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws, like immigration laws. He has effectively rewritten laws through the active interpretation that I find very problematic. While I happen to agree with him, I voted for him, I think this is a problem."
As do House Republicans. In any case, the House Rules Committee will deliberate and discuss a bill next Wednesday on whether or not to sue President Obama, according to the New York Times. Stay tuned.