thursday, 31 july of 2014


House Votes to Sue Obama for Overstepping Powers

The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to sue President Obama for overstepping the powers of the presidency — a move that has angered conservatives who call it insufficient, emboldened Democrats who say Republicans are being vengeful, and further eroded much of what is left of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.

In a 225-to-201 party-line vote, Republicans authorized the House to move forward with a lawsuit against Mr. Obama for his application of the Affordable Care Act, which they argue has been selective and intended to delay the law’s most undesirable aspects.

During a pointed, impassioned hourlong debate, Republicans accused the president of flouting the law and breaking a solemn constitutional oath. They summoned lessons from the American Revolution and the Bible.

Speaker John A. Boehner all but accused Mr. Obama of leaving the Constitution in tatters. “No member of this body needs to be reminded about what the Constitution states about the president’s obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our nation,” Mr. Boehner said from the House floor. “Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?”

Democrats pointed to a litany of bills that Mr. Boehner had kept from reaching the floor for a vote this year — legislation to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment insurance and overhaul the immigration system — and accused Republicans of wasting time and money.

“A sorry spectacle of legislative malpractice,” said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York. “The majority of the American people recognize this for what it is: political theater.”

The lawsuit was Mr. Boehner’s version of what might be termed impeachment-light — a way to send a signal that Republicans would fight the president’s efforts to revise laws Congress had passed while not going as far as many on the right would like.

But, as the speaker has found with other efforts to appease the right wing of his party, he was not well received. Sarah Palin responded by calling for Mr. Obama’s impeachment, stirring up the kind of intraparty fight that Mr. Boehner had hoped to avoid. (Five Republicans voted no on Wednesday: Paul Broun of Georgia; Scott Garrett of New Jersey; Walter B. Jones of North Carolina; Thomas Massie of Kentucky; and Steve Stockman of Texas.)

Other prominent conservatives ridiculed the lawsuit. Erick Erickson, the blogger and pundit, also called it “political theater” that wasted taxpayer dollars. Mark Levin, the popular radio host and former Reagan administration official, called it a “foolish move” that made him cringe.

On this point, Democrats agree.

In a speech in Kansas City on Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s mere mention of the lawsuit drew boos from the crowd. “Everybody recognizes this is a political stunt,” he said. “But it’s worse than that, because every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.”

And he offered Republicans some advice: “Stop just hating all the time. Come on. Let’s get some work done together.”

Democrats have turned the lawsuit and rumblings of impeachment into a financial boon. The party claimed to have raised $1 million on Monday alone. “Don’t let this stand,” read one fund-raising email sent this week by the Democratic National Committee. “Chip in $10 or more before Thursday’s deadline to fight back.”

Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, “When they decide to obsess on suing the president, they shouldn’t be surprised that our base is as energized as they’ve become.”

Recent polling shows that Republicans overwhelmingly favor impeaching the president. A Fox News poll released last week found that 56 percent of Republicans believe that Mr. Obama should be impeached. That compares with just 36 percent of all registered voters. CNN found nearly identical numbers in a poll of its own last week.

Since the president threatened in his State of the Union address this year to use his executive powers to change policy when Congress would not act, Republicans have been increasingly vocal in criticizing the president as imperial, particularly with regard to his signing of executive orders to implement new regulations on politically divisive issues like gun control and pollution.

This was a dominant theme in Republican speeches before the vote on Wednesday.

Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina drew comparisons to the tyranny of King George III (Mr. Obama) and the revolt by the American colonies (House Republicans). “At the end of the bloody revolution, the last thing that they wanted was another king; they wanted freedom,” he said, dismissing concerns about the lawsuit’s costs as a small price to pay for a worthy cause.

“My friends across the aisle worry about the price of a lawsuit to protect our freedom,” Mr. Rice said. “Our forefathers paid dearly for that freedom.”

He added, “We cannot stand by and watch the president shred our Constitution.”

Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina summoned the story of Adam and Eve in explaining how men, because of their inherent fallibility, could not be trusted with too much power, something he said the Founding Fathers understood. “As Christian men of the day, they understood that since the Garden of Eden, man has fallen,” he said, urging Mr. Obama, a former constitutional lawyer, to read up on the federal government’s founding document. “Our Constitution does not say the president gets to write his own laws,” Mr. Duncan said.

Statistics show that as of last week, the Obama White House had issued a total of 183 executive orders, the vast majority in his first term. George W. Bush, by comparison, issued 291 in his eight years in office. Bill Clinton issued 364; Ronald Reagan 381. Executive orders do, however, vary in scope and significance.

House Republicans, in fact, are not the only ones in Congress who have sued the Obama administration this year. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, filed suit challenging the government’s ability to provide money so members of Congress and their staff could buy health care through the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. A federal judge tossed out that suit this month.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has sued Mr. Obama and the leaders of several intelligence agencies to challenge the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data.

Legal scholars have questioned whether any member of Congress can prove injury by the president and therefore prevail in court. (This was the reason Mr. Johnson’s suit was dismissed.)

Perhaps the most impassioned speech of the day came from Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, who called the Republicans’ resolution “a shame and a disgrace.”

“It has no place on this floor,” he said.

(Published by The New York Times - July 30, 2014)

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