House's vote to sue Obama is historic foray into checks, balances
WASHINGTON — The House's vote to sue President Obama is the first such legal challenge by a chamber of Congress against a president and a historic foray in the fight over constitutional checks and balances.
The nearly party-line vote on Wednesday followed a feisty floor debate and offered a fresh example of how the capital's hyperpartisanship has led both parties into unprecedented territory, going to new and greater lengths to confront one another.
Two years ago, the Republican-led House became the first to hold a sitting cabinet secretary in contempt of Congress, as lawmakers accused Attorney General Eric Holder of defying their request to turn over records about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Fast and Furious gun-running operation.
Halfway across the continent, Obama almost gloated at the prospect.
“They're going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they're mad I'm doing my job,” Obama said in an economics speech in Kansas City. “And by the way, I've told them I'd be happy to do it with you. The only reason I'm doing it on my own is because you're not doing anything,” he said of Congress.
Last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate changed the body's long-standing filibuster rules in response to what it said was blatant obstruction by the minority GOP of presidential nominations, including the first filibuster of a nominee for Defense secretary.
November's elections could exacerbate tensions in Washington, especially if Republicans — who hold the House — gain control of the Senate. They need a net gain of six seats to do so.
The House approved the resolution to sue in a near party-line vote, 225-201. It authorizes House Speaker John Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama's failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees.
That provision's effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and won't fully take effect until 2016. The GOP-led House has voted to repeal the law, even as it seeks to sue Obama for failing to enforce it.
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, said the House's action resulted from Obama's failing to follow his duties under the Constitution requiring that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
“Nowhere is the failure more clear in the way the President has manipulated and abused the implementation of his health care law,” Rothfus said in a prepared statement. “Imagine if a Republican president unilaterally decided to suspend parts of the Internal Revenue Code as this president has done.”
Yet, in the same statement, Rothfus added: “This is not about President Obama. This is about preserving our system of checks and balances, and separation of powers. This is about future presidents and future Congresses.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign government gifts to family charity present candidacy hurdle for Hillary Clinton
- FCC plays net traffic cop
- Bomb plot trial ends in Saudi’s conviction
- Devoted California couple dies within 5 hours of each other
- French bulldog joins top 10 list in U.S.
- Russian threat via cyber on the rise, says U.S. intelligence assessment
- White House won’t snub pro-Israel lobby
- Heavy snow cuts power, snarls travel across South
- Loose llamas corralled on Arizona street
- Vote puts federal prosecutor Lynch closer to Attorney General’s Office
- Regulators approve tougher rules for Internet providers