John Boehner Will Initiate a Lawsuit Against President Obama

Executive actions would be at the heart of the action.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (C), R-OH and National Security Advisor Susan Rice listen as US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Syria during a meeting with members of Congress at the White House in Washington, DC, September 3, 2013.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
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Elahe Izadi
June 25, 2014, 9:24 a.m.

House Speak­er John Boehner told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day that he’s plan­ning to start a law­suit against Pres­id­ent Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion over the White House’s use of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion makes it clear that it’s the pres­id­ent’s job to faith­fully ex­ecute the laws, and, in my view, the pres­id­ent hasn’t faith­fully ex­ecuted the laws,” Boehner said.

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News that Boehner was con­sid­er­ing a law­suit was first re­por­ted by Roll Call on Tues­day. The speak­er de­clined to elab­or­ate which par­tic­u­lar ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions would be at the heart of such a law­suit, say­ing, “When I make that de­cision, I’ll let you know.”

A num­ber of House Re­pub­lic­ans have been call­ing for such a move over what they deem are im­peach­able of­fenses. When asked wheth­er this law­suit could lead to im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings, Boehner said, “This is not about im­peach­ment.”

Boehner cir­cu­lated a memo to House col­leagues on Wed­nes­day ex­plain­ing his reas­on­ing. “On one mat­ter after an­oth­er dur­ing his pres­id­ency, Pres­id­ent Obama has cir­cum­ven­ted the Con­gress through ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion, cre­at­ing his own laws and ex­cus­ing him­self from ex­ecut­ing stat­utes he is sworn to en­force ““ at times even boast­ing about his will­ing­ness to do it, as if dar­ing the Amer­ica people to stop him,” he wrote.

In the let­ter, the speak­er wrote that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions could cre­ate a pre­ced­ent that would shift “the bal­ance of power de­cis­ively and dan­ger­ously in fa­vor of the pres­id­ency, giv­ing the pres­id­ent king-like au­thor­ity at the ex­pense of the Amer­ic­an people and their elec­ted le­gis­lat­ors.”

For months, Re­pub­lic­ans have been crit­ic­al of the pres­id­ent’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions on everything from tweak­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act im­ple­ment­a­tion to im­mig­ra­tion, such as De­ferred Ac­tion of Child­hood Ar­rivals.

This year, the pres­id­ent prom­ised to de­vote more at­ten­tion to ac­tions the ex­ec­ut­ive branch can take without Con­gress. Obama has also been un­der pres­sure from the left on de­port­a­tions, which led the pres­id­ent to dir­ect Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Jeh John­son to ini­ti­ate a re­view and po­ten­tial changes to the way the ad­min­is­tra­tion en­forces de­port­a­tion policy to make it more “hu­mane.” Res­ults of that re­view are ex­pec­ted after Au­gust.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion had like­wise been pres­sured by LGBT ad­voc­ates to take ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion re­lated to the Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­in­a­tion Act, in light of in­ac­tion from Con­gress, that would ap­ply to fed­er­al con­tract­ors. Obama ended up sign­ing such an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der this month.

Boehner plans on bring­ing le­gis­la­tion to the floor in Ju­ly that would au­thor­ize the House, via the House Gen­er­al Coun­sel and the Bi­par­tis­an Leg­al Ad­vis­ory Group, to file a suit “in an ef­fort to com­pel the pres­id­ent to fol­low his oath of of­fice and faith­fully ex­ecute the laws of our coun­try.” BLAG rules by ma­jor­ity vote and is com­prised of the speak­er, the House ma­jor­ity and minor­ity lead­ers, and the ma­jor­ity and minor­ity whips (mean­ing, three Re­pub­lic­ans and two Demo­crats). That’s the same group the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship used to (un­suc­cess­fully) de­fend the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, for a price tag of $2.3 mil­lion.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi called this latest ef­fort by Boehner “sub­ter­fuge” and cri­ti­cized Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship for spend­ing money to de­fend DOMA.

“They knew it was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al. But they were do­ing their polit­ics and they were spend­ing the tax­pay­ers’ money, a waste,” Pelosi said. “And here we go again.

This story has been up­dated with in­form­a­tion from Speak­er Boehner’s memo. A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this story also mis­stated a pri­or BLAG ac­tion.

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