The House on Thursday passed a resolution authorizing an unprecedented congressional lawsuit against President Obama over his use of executive authority to delay the employer mandate in the health insurance reform law.
The measure passed 225-201, solely with Republican votes. All Democrats and five GOP lawmakers voted against it.
The resolution gives House GOP leaders the green light to begin building a legal case against the executive branch, including the hiring of lawyers and filing the suit in federal court, “for actions by the president inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.”
Republicans say they were prompted to pursue a lawsuit after years of Obama’s use of executive authority to circumvent Congress. Obama has often touted his executive authority to move parts of his agenda despite opposition from Republicans in Congress.
The chief proponent of the lawsuit, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told lawmakers in a floor speech that members of both parties have a duty to defend the Constitution, which he believes Obama has violated.
“This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats,” Boehner said. “It's about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold and acting decisively when it may be compromised. Are you willing to let a president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let any president tear apart what our founders built?"
Democrats, bolstered by poll numbers showing the lawsuit to be unpopular, condemned the resolution as a politically motivated waste of time and money.
House GOP leaders say they do not yet know how much the suit will cost.
“What cuts will come from programs that Americans depend on to pay for this ridiculous lawsuit?” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said.
Democrats also characterized the resolution as a step toward an eventual effort by the GOP to impeach Obama.
Republicans said they are not planning a move to impeach Obama, but Democrats have been repeating the threat, collecting millions in new donations after sending out emails stating the GOP has added impeachment to its playbook.
“The House of Representatives is apparently taking its marching orders from Sarah Palin,” Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said, referring to the former Republican vice presidential nominee, who has called for the GOP to impeach Obama.
Republicans say their lawsuit was prompted by several instances where Obama has used executive action when he should have consulted Congress. Examples include a recent decision to swap five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for an Army soldier held captive in Afghanistan. Republican lawmakers believe Obama also overstepped his authority by implementing new rules to reduce pollution from coal plants and by stopping deportations of many young illegal immigrants.
But the lawsuit only includes Obama’s decision to waive the employer mandate, a key component of the Affordable Care Act.
The employer mandate will require large companies to either provide health insurance to workers or pay a fine. It’s been delayed from 2014 until 2016, which the GOP said was a move to protect Democrats from the unpopular effects of the mandate during the upcoming critical election.
“We have chosen to bring this legislation to sue the president over his selective implementation of the Affordable Care Act because it is the option most likely to clear the legal hurdlers necessary to restore the balance of power,” Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said.