Speaker Boehner (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Speaker Boehner (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Speaker John Boehner made it official. “I am,” he said when asked this morning if he were going to sue President Obama over the raft of executive actions he has taken in part because of Republican congressional recalcitrance. “The constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the law,” Boehner said. “In my view, the president has not faithfully executed the law.” Whatever you say, Mr. Speaker.

Plenty of folks disagree with that assessment, including the folks at Brookings. “Like many criticisms of many presidents, policy disagreements stemming from presidential actions do not automatically make those actions illegal. Executive orders are no different,” wrote John Hudak, managing editor of the FixGov blog, in a post earlier this year. “They are not an abuse of power, but a necessary presidential power critical to the function of government.” An accompanying chart shows just how (insert air quotes here) lawless, as his critics proclaim, the president has been. And it reveals how Boehner’s lawsuit against the president would be a huge waste of time.


(Brookings)

The graphic … shows the frequency with which presidents have issued executive orders. Republicans are right: President Obama is absolutely unique … in how infrequently he issues them! The last president to issue executive orders at such a slow rate was Grover Cleveland who served from 1885-1889 & 1893-1897. What’s more, Republican complaints about President Obama’s use of such powers is a bit ironic, given historically Republican presidents use executive orders more frequently.

This apparently doesn’t matter to Boehner. Of course, he says he’s doing this because “when there’s conflicts like this between the legislative and administrative [sic] branch it’s our responsibility to stand up.” For folks like George Will, who advocated such a lawsuit in his Sunday column, this litigation “would establish [him] as the legislature’s vindicator.”

“This is not about impeachment,” Boehner promised this morning. “This is about faithfully executing the laws of our country.” But what the speaker is doing is nothing less than a dress rehearsal for Obama’s impeachment. Given how much the word has been bandied about, Boehner’s caucus won’t be able to resist, especially if (dear Lord let it be “when”) the courts reject his frivolous lawsuit.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.