Our Opinion: The lunacy never ceases
Are we the only ones who are amazed at the nerve of House Speaker John A. Boehner?
For the past few weeks, the Republican from Ohio has been promising to file a lawsuit against Pres. Barack Obama for the manner in which he has issued executive orders, which his party believes is unconstitutional.
"The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws -- at times even boasting about it," Boehner said in his statement.
What's most audacious about Boehner's threatened lawsuit is that it will focus on the Affordable Care Act and Obama's executive order delaying implementation of a portion of the act that imposes penalties on employers who do not offer health insurance to employees.
"He has said that if Congress won't make the laws he wants, he'll go ahead and make them himself, and in the case of the employer mandate in his health care law, that's exactly what he did."
Need we remind our voters that the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2009 with only one Republican vote? And that since then, the House has voted, unsuccessfully mind you, 54 times to repeal ACA?
Would it be disingenuous of us to point out the irony -- no, the hypocrisy -- of Boehner's attempt to sue over implementation of a portion of legislation only a blue-state Republican voted for?
Besides the obvious political machinations that have gone into Boehner's deliberations, he says it's about limiting the power of future presidents.
"If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well," Boehner said. "The House has an obligation to stand up for the legislative branch, and the Constitution, and that is exactly what we will do."
We would just ask that Boehner stand up for the average American the same way he believes he is standing up for the legislative branch and the Constitution.
In an amazing display of sarcasm -- which we wish the president had been employing more liberally over the past six years -- Obama berated Boehner for his threats.
"Now, I don't know which things they find most offensive -- me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they're getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don't know which of these actions really bug them."
As Obama noted, he is on track to issue the fewest number of executive orders in the past 100 years.
"So it's not clear how it is that Republicans didn't seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. Maybe it's just me they don't like. I don't know. Maybe there's some principle out there that I haven't discerned, that I haven't figure out. You hear some of them -- ‘sue him,' ‘impeach him.' Really? Really? For what? You're going to sue me for doing my job? OK."
As he noted: "You're going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job -- while you don't do your job. So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers' money, I've got a better idea: Do something. If you're mad at me for helping people on my own, let's team up. Let's pass some bills. Let's help America together."
Ed O'Keefe, writing for the Washington Post, notes the lawsuit might just be Boehner's attempt to defuse GOP calls for the impeachment of Obama.
Among the apparently reality-challenged advocates for impeachment are former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (who recently likened the president to a wife beater) and Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), former congressmen Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Allen West (R-Fla.), and the South Dakota Republican Party.
We wonder if Boehner is attempting to throw a bone of distraction to the maniacally salivating members of his party or if he is attempting to use the courts to score political points in advance of the 2014 elections.
The attorneys advising the GOP to pursue the lawsuit -- David Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley, who were both involved in the GOP's failed attempt to overturn the health care law -- insist it has merit.
"Professor Foley and I believe that there are numerous instances where President Obama has not only suspended portions of congressional statutes, but has also replaced the relevant statutory language with a new language that was drafted solely by the executive branch," Rivkin told Wallbank. "This blatant usurpation of legislative authority by the president is the most palpable injury to the House of Representatives as an institution and would amply satisfy the constitutional requirement of an injury-in-fact, necessary to establish standing," Rivkin told Wallbank.
And legal scholar Jonathan Turley told MSNBC they might have a plausible case against the president.
"There's no license for going it alone in our system, and what he's done is very problematic. He has shifted $454 million of the ACA from appropriated purpose to another purpose. He's told agencies not to enforce some laws, like immigration laws. He has effectively rewritten laws through the active interpretation that I find very problematic. While I happen to agree with him, I voted for him, I think this is a problem."
Ron Christie, a Republican political strategist and a former member of Dick Cheney's vice presidential staff, writing for the Daily Beast, insists Boehner could be successful.
"The real issue, of course, is not the number of executive orders issued during one's presidency but rather their legality. And it's here that Boehner and company have a real, substantive case against the president."
Christie notes that Obama has issued "at least 32 legislative fixes to the Affordable Care Act, softened laws against illegal immigration, and stripped the work requirement from President Clinton's welfare reform -- all with the stroke of his pen."
Whether or not Boehner's threat has legal merit, Derek Wallbank, writing for Bloomberg, notes Boehner's lawsuit stands a very good chance of backfiring with voters. He reminds his readers that only 7 percent of Americans expressed confidence in Congress in a June Gallup poll, a historic low for the institution.
"Legal scholars say Republicans will have to clear a high hurdle to get the judiciary to rule on whether the executive branch abused its authority," notes Wallbank.
And Eric J. Segall, a law professor at Georgia State University, told Dean Obeidallah, writing for the Daily Beast, that "every U.S. president is given great discretion when implementing laws that Congress has passed, and Obama has not acted differently in that capacity from any president since the New Deal."
So far, Obama has issued 182 executive orders. Bush issued 291, Bill Clinton signed 364 and Ronald Reagan, 381.
"I wonder, if Boehner had been House Speaker in the 1980s, if he would have sued Ronald Reagan, who issued more than double the number of executive orders as Obama's 182, coming in at 381?" asked Obeidallah, who has a suggestion for the president.
"If Boehner files this lawsuit, I can only hope that Obama files a bunch of counterclaims. ... And Obama should definitely sue Boehner to reimburse us for the costs associated with the 54 times the GOP-controlled House has voted to repeal Obamacare. Per CBS's 2013 calculations, those meaningless votes cost $52.4 million in taxpayer's dollars."
Like everything the GOP and its far-right acolytes have thrown in the vicinity of the president -- including the slurs, the subtle (and not so subtle) racist epithets, the issue over his birth certificate and questions about his religion, his perceived "weakness" about his foreign policy, Benghazi ... etc., ad nauseum -- Boehner's latest attempt to undermine the president is just another example of the moral bankruptcy of the self-proclaimed arbiters of morality. Rather than attempt to work with this president, the Republicans have kowtowed to their base and their monied puppet masters, all in a craven attempt to hold on to the power that is slowly slipping through their fingers, and not just because of demographic change but also because rationality eventually triumphs over lunacy.
Perhaps, one day, the GOP will return to its legacy as the party of Lincoln, but this latest tactic by Boehner signals that may never happen.
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