House Votes Along Party Lines to Sue Obama

House Votes Along Party Lines to Sue Obama

By Adam O'Neal - July 30, 2014

Voting almost exclusively along party lines, the House authorized a lawsuit against President Obama Wednesday evening over his handling of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. The tally was 225-201, with five Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing the legislation. 

The lawsuit focuses on Obama’s use of executive action to delay certain coverage mandates and selectively provide waivers from some health care law requirements. The president’s decision to delay the employer coverage mandate, which requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance for their workers, plays a central role in the lawsuit. 

The White House and congressional Democrats have accused Republicans of using taxpayer money to play election-year politics, while the GOP has argued that the lawsuit is a check against unprecedented overreach by the administration. 

One of the Republicans to vote against the measure, Walter Jones of North Carolina, complained that the suit would not go far enough in taking on the president. “Why not impeach instead of wasting $1 million to $2 million of the taxpayers' money?” he told The Hill. 

Also opposed from the GOP were Reps. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Steve Stockman of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Paul Broun of Georgia. 

Rep. Louise Slaughter, the ranking Democratic member of the Rules Committee, said in a speech on the House floor Wednesday afternoon that the lawsuit “is a gimmick.” 

“The majority wants to sue the president for doing his job,” added the New York congresswoman. “This lawsuit will be a monumental waste of time, and energy, and funds. It is a political maneuver timed to peak as Americans go to the polls.” 

Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, disagreed. She cited Article I of the Constitution in arguing to rein in the president’s power to alter legislation after its enactment into law. 

“Nowhere is the president given the authority to re-write the law on his own,” she said, adding, “That type of action amounts to tyranny.” 

The White House has aggressively pushed back against the lawsuit, casting doubt on whether the House has standing in the case. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest previously described the legal action as “nothing more than a taxpayer-funded political stunt.” 

“And it certainly doesn't reflect the priorities that so many Americans across the country would like to see their elected leaders in Washington focused on,” Earnest said last month. 

Speaker John Boehner, who initiated the lawsuit, wrote in a June memo to his GOP colleagues, “We elected a president, Americans note; we didn’t elect a monarch or king.” 

The Rules Committee voted 7-4, along party lines, to advance the legislation last week. The House debate proved unusually contentious, even for the historically polarized Congress. 

“This lawsuit is ‘frivolous’ on steroids,” argued Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat.

Meanwhile, Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, asserted that the bill “is to preserve this country, the separation of powers, and the rule of law.”

Minutes after the House vote, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer announced that Obama on Thursday will take another step without Congress "to crack down on federal contractors who put workers' safety and hard-earned pay at risk."

In his message to those on the White House email list, Pfeiffer asked recipients to leave their contact information at a “doing his job” website if they support the president in his clash with the House over the use of executive power. 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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