House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against President Obama on Wednesday, saying that his executive actions are so extreme that they violate the Constitution.
The nearly party-line vote — all Democrats voted against it, and all but five Republicans voted for it — further agitated an already polarized climate on Capitol Hill as both parties used the pending suit to try to rally support ahead of the November elections.
Halfway across the continent, Obama almost gloated at the prospect of being sued.
“They’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they’re mad I’m doing my job,” Obama said in an economics speech in Kansas City, Mo. “And by the way, I’ve told them I’d be happy to do it with you. The only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you’re not doing anything,” he said of Congress.
The clash came a day before Congress is scheduled to begin a 51 / 2-week summer break and as must-pass bills on reshaping veterans’ health care and highway construction appeared headed for passage — while most everything else was not.
For instance, the House and Senate moved in dramatically different directions on legislation designed to deal with the flow of thousands of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the border.
Expecting a flurry of work once the elections are over in November, leaders in both parties have instead tried to position their rank-and-file to take advantage of the gridlock by blaming the other side. By the time this year concludes, the 113th Congress is all but assured of being the least productive in recorded history in terms of passing legislation signed into law.
The details of Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit mattered little — it focuses on a narrow portion of the landmark health-care law — and instead each side focused on the larger symbolism of the moment.
Democrats linked the lawsuit to calls from outspoken conservative activists urging the impeachment of Obama, a battle cry that Democrats have amplified in an effort to raise money and get people to vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), glaring at Republicans during the heated debate, accused Boehner (R-Ohio) of caving into “impeachment-hungry extremists.”
“Tell them impeachment is off the table. That’s what I had to do,” she said, noting several attempts by liberals to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney while she was House speaker.
Boehner, who has repeatedly said impeachment is not in the cards, connected the suit to a series of executive orders that Obama issued on climate change, immigration rules, the health-care law and raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, saying that those were power grabs that did not have requisite backing from Congress.