House GOP unveils resolution authorizing lawsuit against Obama

House Speaker John Boehner plans to file a lawsuit against President Obama for what he calls an overreach of power. Jackie Kucinich explains what happens when Congress takes the White House to court. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

House Republicans released  a draft of a resolution Thursday evening authorizing litigation against President Obama over executive actions he took to alter the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had said earlier this summer that he would sue the president over his use of executive actions, but the GOP leadership chose to focus the suit specifically on changes made to the health-care law, and not other executive actions by Obama.

If passed by the Republican-controlled House, the resolution would empower Boehner to sue the president on the House's behalf. The House Rules Committee, run by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), will meet Wednesday to discuss the draft resolution.

“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 said in a statement. "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."

The litigation will argue that by suspending the start date of the employer mandate, Obama operated outside of his constitutional power.

“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.  The Constitution states that the president must faithfully execute the laws, and spells out that only the Legislative Branch has the power to legislate," Boehner said. "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.”

Democrats, including Obama himself, have dismissed the talk of a lawsuit as a stunt.

In a statement on Thursday night, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) called the lawsuit a "distraction."

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt," said Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman, in a statement.  “Time and again, House Republicans’ total abdication of responsibility has forced the President to act.  They’ve wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail."

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.



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