House Votes to Authorize Lawsuits Against President
The House of Representatives voted to allow the Speaker “to initiate or intervene in” lawsuits against President Barack Obama or other Administration officials. The Wednesday evening vote, 225-201, was largely along party lines: No Democrat joined the Republican majority and only five Republicans voted in the minority.
The resolution allows the Speaker to engage in litigation if he thinks the President or his subordinates have implemented Obamacare at variance with the provisions of the law or if they have simply failed to implement “any such provision”. Republicans claim that one example of the President failing to implement the law as enacted is his decision to postpone a requirement for most employers to provide their workers with health insurance. Although the resolution specifically authorized lawsuits for Obamacare infractions, this is part of a larger struggle between the Executive and Legislative Branches. For instance, Republicans also have repeatedly said they do not trust the President to enforce immigration laws currently on the books.
Speaker of the House John Boehner argued in favor of the resolution, saying, “This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution we swore an oath to.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed the measure as a waste of “the taxpayers’ time and money”. An anonymous Obama Administration official speaking with reporters echoed Leader Pelosi’s suggestion, noting, “The lawsuit that was empowered yesterday out of the House of Representatives will not help any individual American.” He said the President intends to keep issuing Executive orders.
Although the House has paved the way for a lawsuit against the Administration, it remains to be seen how far the initiative will go. The Wall Street Journal reported that the “biggest obstacle” is whether courts would hear the case in the first place. For a court to hear a lawsuit, the party petitioning the court must have suffered injuries from the defendant. However, in the past, courts have been reluctant to accept claims by Members of Congress that the Executive Branch has harmed them. Some constitutional scholars, however, argue that since the House has a whole has authorized the Speaker to act, judges would be more willing to accept such cases.
According to Jacob Gershman of The Wall Street Journal, if the House is successful, the “consequences are more political and symbolic” than punitive or compensatory. “A judge could declare unconstitutional an action taken by Mr. Obama, establishing clearer limits of executive power moving forward”, Gershman writes.
Eric Cantor Stepping Down as Majority Leader
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will formally step down from his spot as the number two Republican at midnight tonight. In June he lost his primary election to Dave Brat, a little-known challenger who campaigned as being more conservative than Cantor. On Thursday, Cantor delivered his last speech as Majority Leader, expressing his awe for serving in Congress; his hopes for future policy reforms; his gratitude for his colleagues and staff; and his best wishes for his successor, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. “Walking into this building and walking onto this floor is something that excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress. As it should. Not one of us should ever take for granted the awesome honor and responsibility we have to serve our fellow Americans”, he said. His colleagues honored him with a standing ovation and hearty cheers.
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