President Obama has dismissed a lawsuit House Speaker John Boehner plans to bring against him over his use of executive power, arguing it’s merely a political ploy to distract from Republican lawmakers’ inaction on Capitol Hill.
During a speech Friday in Minneapolis, a clearly frustrated Obama argued the GOP is “suing me for doing my job.”
“They don’t do anything except block me and call me names,” he said of House Republicans. “If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together?”
The president said he wants to work with Republicans, but told them, “You gotta give me something. You gotta try to deliver something. Anything.” His comments drew applause from the audience.
Obama had made a similar argument in an interview that aired Friday morning. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” Obama told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The suit is a stunt.”
Obama added that if Boehner’s concerns truly center on the president’s use of executive orders, the House speaker should get Congress to pass legislation. Obama gave immigration reform as an example. “The majority of American people want to see immigration reform done,” the president said. “We had a bipartisan bill through the Senate, and you’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority? While you’re not doing anything?”On Wednesday, Boehner announced that he would bring forth legislation that would allow the House general counsel to sue the Obama administration, insisting the president has “not faithfully executed the laws” in taking some single-handed actions.
“We elected a president, Americans note; we didn’t elect a monarch or a king,” Boehner wrote in a memo to his colleagues. Boehner has not spelled out which specific actions are illegal.
For Republicans, the move may be geared toward firing up the conservative base ahead of the the 2014 midterm elections.
“The GOP has made it clear that President Obama is going to be a major target to help retain the House. It helps restore and strengthen Boehner’s relationships with the far right and get primary voters out in the midterms,” said Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College and of political campaign management at New York University.
But there are already signs that the lawsuit may backfire.
Yes, the lawsuit is something concrete Republicans can show to their constituents. After all, just 121 bills became law in the entire 113th Congress—even less than the 136 bills passed by the notoriously unproductive 112th Congress.
But while the lawsuit may fire up the base, there are risks, NBC’s First Read noted. “With a summer that’s going to be dominated by hearings on Benghazi and the IRS – and now with a vote on this lawsuit coming next month – non-base voters can legitimately ask: What are you doing to improve our lives, help the economy, and make sure we have extra money in our pockets?”
Donations to Democrats have also skyrocketed since the lawsuit was announced. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it had its best fundraising day of the year on Wednesday, taking in $584,000.While Obama has used executive actions on matters like delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act, the federal minimum wage and new environmental regulations, Obama has actually issued fewer executive orders than his predecessors. The president issues such orders an average every 11 days, according to the Brookings Institution.
In comparison, President George W. Bush issued an executive order on average every 10 days. President Ronald Reagan issued them about once every seven days, and President Jimmy Carter issued more than one every five days, according to the think tank. In fact, Obama’s rate is the slowest since President Grover Cleveland’s administration.
The White House and Democratic lawmakers are rallying and trying to broadcast the message that the lawsuit will come at the expense of taxpayers. “The fact that they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the Untied States for doing his job, I think, is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t’ support,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.
Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel, however, told msnbc on Thursday that the tax-payer argument was a “monumentally, transparently stupid argument.”
“The people making that argument are paid ‘on the backs of taxpayers’ and they are making those arguments from desks paid for ‘on the backs of taxpayers’ in buildings paid for ‘on the backs of taxpayers.’ All of the President’s failures to faithfully execute the law as written were paid for ‘on the backs of taxpayers,’” said Steel.
Even if the lawsuit does go forward, it’s unlikely to shake Obama’s short-term agenda as it could take years for it to go through the federal courts.