Obama lawsuit proper or ‘preposterous’? (with video)


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By Ed Sykes


Depending on whom you ask, House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to sue President Obama for failing to “faithfully execute the law” is either a courageous constitutional crusade or a pointless political pipe dream.


Republicans say the president has used executive authority to circumvent Congress in an illegal way, specifically citing the president’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Democrat say the suit is all about scoring political points in an election year.


“The president in my opinion has gone too far,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “Rather than faithfully execute the laws as the Constitution requires, the president has instead selectively enforced the law in some instances, ignoring the law in other instances, and a few cases changed the law altogether.”


“The lawsuit is preposterous, it’s a political exercise,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. “This is a partisan political stunt timed to peak in the House of Representatives in November right as the midterm elections are happening.”


Both sides fleshed out their arguments Wednesday on Capitol Hill, as the House Rules Committee heard testimony from four legal experts about the merits and drawbacks of launching a court battle against the executive branch.


“The president’s pledge to effectively govern alone is alarming,” said Jonathan Turley, professor of public interest law at the George Washington University Law School. “I voted for him in 2008. This is not a question of what should be done, it is a question of how it should be done and more importantly who should do it.”


Republican witnesses told lawmakers executive overreach has long plagued the American political system, going back to George W. Bush and other presidents before him. Only Congress, they say, has the power to defend itself.


“Litigation may be the best, most tailored and proportionate remedy when the executive branch fails to faithfully execute one of your laws,” said Elizabeth Foley, professor of law at Florida International University College of Law.


Other experts aren’t convinced.


“The president is not refusing to enforce this law that will constitute his signature legacy, he is phasing it in,” said Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center. “As a legal as well as a practical matter, that’s well within his job description.”


Acting United States Solicitor General Walter Dellinger III believes the suit is completely fabricated and would overlook the very separation of powers Republicans say they’re fighting to protect.


“You don’t have a role in how the executive branch administers the law,” said Dellinger. “Allowing this kind of suit by the Congress every time it disagreed with how the president carried out the law would be a radical liberalization of the role that the judiciary has played.”


The House Rules Committee will be the only committee to hold hearings and mark up the proposed resolution to file suit against the president. Slaughter, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said that gives them a “special responsibility to weigh these issues carefully.”