Boehner to sue Obama over executive orders

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Wednesday that he intended to initiate a federal lawsuit seeking to declare President Obama’s executive orders as an unconstitutional power grab by one branch of the government.

Boehner declined to spell out which specific actions would be addressed in the suit, which have included a 2012 decision not to deport children of illegal immigrants and this month’s order to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. Those executive orders came after the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate deadlocked on these issues over the past few years, taking no action.

Republicans have argued that the president does not have the authority to issue such orders given that Congress has not supported them. “In my view the president has not faithfully executed the law,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Appearing before Boehner confirmed the plans for the suit, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) labeled it "a subterfuge" meant to distract from other issues. At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the lawsuit fit with a congressional Republican plan of obstructing the president’s agenda.

“The fact that they are considering a taxpayer funded lawsuit against the president of the United States for doing his job is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t support,” he said.

The contours of the lawsuit will likely follow Boehner’s decision three years ago to hire outside legal counsel to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration decided not to defend during the landmark gay marriage case that eventually went to the Supreme Court. In that case, also over objections from Pelosi, Boehner and House Republicans spent $3 million paying a legal team led by Paul Clement, a former solicitor general and top conservative lawyer for federal appellate cases.

The lawsuit will likely take several years to wind through the federal courts, making it likely that it may have more impact on the executive authority of Obama’s successor as president. However, Boehner said that he felt Congress was losing too much ground in the ongoing battles between the executive and legislative branches.

“This is about defending the institution,” Boehner said of Congress.

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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