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House votes to sue president over Obamacare delays

House Republicans voted Wednesday to pursue a lawsuit against President Obama over use of executive actions.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   July 30, 2014 at 6:58 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) -- The House approved a resolution Wednesday to sue President Obama over delays in implementing the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, a move that has been dismissed by Democrats and the White House as a political stunt.

Members voted 205-201, along party lines, to approve the resolution, the first time in the country's history that one branch of the government has sued another.

The only Republican no votes were Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Paul Broun of Georgia, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Steve Stockman of Texas and Scott Garrett of New Jersey, on the grounds the lawsuit did not go far enough. No Democrats voted for the measure.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has accused the president of stepping outside his constitutional authority on a number of issues, including his immigration policies, but has decided to focus on the ACA as the issue that stands the best chance of getting heard in court. He has repeatedly maintained that his goal is not impeachment, but rather to force Obama into "faithfully executing the laws" and protecting the legislative branch's authority.

"The Constitution makes it clear that the president's job is to faithfully execute the laws, and in my opinion, the president has not faithfully executed the laws," Boehner said in announcing the lawsuit in June.

The House's internal debate over the lawsuit has focused little on the lawsuit's merits, although Democrats and the administration's lawyers say the president was within his authority, under the Constitution's "Take Care" clause. They interpreted the line -- "he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" -- as giving the executive flexibility in how to interpret and implement the laws.

Instead, a potential lawsuit is likely to get tripped up on a question of standing, meaning that the House may not be able to prove it was substantially injured by the delay in implementing parts of the law. Even if the lawsuit is allowed to stand, by the time it wound through courts and appeals, the employer mandate will be implemented and Obama likely long gone from office.

At a speech in Kansas City ahead of Wednesday's vote, Obama again dismissed the lawsuit as a waste of time and money when there are so many other things that need to be taken care of in the final days before August recess.

"Unfortunately, the main vote that they've scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job," he said. "Think about this -- they have announced that they're going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they're mad because I'm doing my job. And, by the way, I've told them -- I said, I'd be happy to do it with you. So the only reason I'm doing it on my own is because you don't do anything."

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