TIME Congress

House Grants Boehner Authority to Sue Obama

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on June 19, 2014 Kevin Dietsch—UPI/Landov

The measure passed 225 to 201 on the backs of House Republicans

The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday granting House Speaker John Boehner the authority to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time the legislative branch has endorsed such a lawsuit.

The measure, which passed 225 to 201 without a single Democrat “yea,” underscores the burning frustration of House Republicans, who believe that the President has failed to execute the law properly on a number of measures. Boehner has said that the lawsuit will focus on the President’s decision to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, which Republicans oppose. That July 2013 decision gave companies with at least 50 full-time employees an extra year — until 2015 — to provide health insurance or pay a fine. Earlier this year, the Administration delayed the mandate again, until 2016, for companies employing between 50 and 99 workers.

“I oppose the employer mandate in the president’s health care law,” Boehner wrote in a USA Today op-ed published this week. “The House of Representatives has voted to delay or eliminate it (and we will do so again if we prevail in court). But it is the letter of the law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. He simply cannot unilaterally rewrite it.”

Democrats are furious at the lawsuit and have called it a political stunt.

“This is the least productive Congress in decades,” wrote White House Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer in an email to supporters. “And instead of doing their job, they are suing the President for doing his.”

“This resolution is a waste of time and money,” Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, said on the House floor Wednesday. “Today, Mr. Speaker, we’ve reached a low, a very low point. This resolution to sue the President just goes a little too far. It is a shame and a disgrace that we’re here debating the suing of the President.”

The House will have a difficult time winning the lawsuit. In a letter to the House Rules Committee two weeks ago, Harvard constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe wrote that the House “cannot plausibly allege, much less demonstrate, any distinctive injury to itself or its members.” He called the activity a “wholly meritless attempt to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.”

“We’ll find out” whether or not the House has legal standing,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican.

“I would tell you that on many occasions, this President has overstepped his authority,” Diaz-Balart told TIME. “Now whether that gives us standing to sue is the big question. But we won’t know until we try.”

— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

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