On Monday, July 7, 2014, House Speaker John Boehner published an OpEd on CNN.com. In it the Speaker spoke in general terms of how President Barack Obama has failed to “follow his oath of office and faithfully execute the laws of the country.” He discussed the lack of action on job creation, taxes and regulations that hurt the economy and, of course, the private sector. In the end, according to Speaker Boehner, the President has failed to uphold the Constitution and, instead, has created his own laws, ignoring the will of the American people. In short, the President has failed to do his job.
Except the things that the President supposedly failed to act on were things that fell under Congress’ job description.
The inaction of this Congress has now become legendary, leading to an approval rating so low they are less popular than dealing with the IRS. In spite of the rhetoric, the Republican controlled Congress has failed to move forward on significant legislation such as jobs, voting rights or immigration. While they have finally passed a budget and a controversial farm bill, the House has spent a great deal of time making speeches and naming infrastructure instead of actually fixing it.
Now faced with the midterm elections they have finally decided to take action…by suing the president.
Boehner announced his plan to file a lawsuit for the President’s supposed dereliction of duties in the OpEd. The announcement came just days after the president announced that he was going forward with whatever executive actions were allowed by law to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Boehner had informed the president that there would be no movement on an immigration bill that was desired by both parties. It was believed the threat of the lawsuit would prevent the President from moving forward with any ideas. However when the President’s announcement was seen as popular with the American people, not to mention filled with ideas supported by Republicans, Boehner’s plan had backfired. President Obama himself responded with a simple, “So sue me.”
Backed into a corner, Boehner has decided to go forward with a vote to authorize taking legal action against a sitting president by suing President Obama…for not implementing the Affordable Care Act.
On Thursday, a statement from Boehner’s office announced that they would be seeking a vote on a resolution that would allow the Speaker to pursue civil action for the President’s failure to implement a provision of the ACA. The employer mandate, which required employers with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage, was delayed by executive order. Issues with setting up the exchange, as well as complaints from business owners led to the Department of Health and Human Services delaying it until next year. According to the resolution, the President violated the Constitution by unilaterally changing a law, which would require congressional action.
To be clear, the Speaker of the House of Representatives wants to bring civil action against the President for failing to implement a portion of a law the House has voted to repeal or otherwise alter 50 times. In fact, the House itself voted to delay in the employer mandate in March of this year. It failed to make it past the Senate because the House version including delaying the individual mandate and the associated penalties.
The President did not authorize changing the law, just delaying the implementation, a common action for new laws. The executive action instructed the Treasury Department to not penalize businesses if they did not provide insurance this year, but would still be required to do so beginning in 2015. Republicans actually railed against the mandate when it was first passed, touting the oft repeated mantra of how it would destroy small businesses.
By seeking to sue the President over a provision that they themselves supported is just another stunt to distract the American public from their own failings as a legislative body. With just a little over 100 days left before the midterm elections, and suffering significant challenges and losses in from extreme tea party candidates, Republicans are seeking to solidify support from their base. With calls for impeachment from the extreme right, they need to do whatever they can to hold on to their House majority and not lose any seats in the Senate where they remain in the minority.
Instead of focusing on the items the American public actually want done, Speaker Boehner and the Republicans are using yet another tactic to distract from their years of inaction. We’ll have to wait until November to see if the voters will be fooled.
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