In all likelihood, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) does not want to shut down the government. He’d probably also prefer to avoid a pointless presidential impeachment crusade.
But the Republican leader also realizes many in his party want both a shutdown and impeachment, putting the Speaker in a position where he’ll need to find some alternative approach that rebukes the White House, satiates his rabid allies, but doesn’t actually do anything meaningful or potentially scandalous.
Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe report that Boehner has just such a solution in mind.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is considering expanding a proposed federal lawsuit over President Obama’s executive orders to include action on immigration. Filing a separate lawsuit over the president’s authority to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation is another option that gained traction Thursday during talks among party leaders.The idea to use the courts as an initial means of dissent, should the president move forward in the coming weeks to protect millions from deportation, moved to the front of the House GOP’s playbook after the leadership reviewed it. Boehner reportedly wants to respond forcefully and quickly should the president act and believes a lawsuit would do that, as well as signal to conservatives in his conference that he shares their frustrations about the president’s use of executive power.
And if the goal is to give the appearance of action without doing anything too meaningful, this might do the trick. Republicans are convinced executive actions on immigration policy are a flagrant violation of the Constitution – but only when Obama does it? Fine, go to the courts.
The lawsuit would almost certainly fail, but that’s not really the point. By pursuing a legal recourse, Boehner gets to “stand up” to President Obama, he gives Republicans something specific to rally behind, and he throws cold water on the more ridiculous alternative tactics. All he has to do is add some complaints to his current anti-Obama lawsuit.
Of course, that’d be easier if the anti-Obama lawsuit actually existed.
Boehner first announced his plan to sue the president back in June. A month later, the Speaker’s office formally unveiled the legislation to authorize the litigation, a case intended to force the implementation of an obscure provision of the Affordable Care Act which Republicans don’t actually want to see implemented.
A month after that, House Republicans agree to pay a D.C. law firm $500 an hour, in taxpayer money, to handle the case.
And since then, bupkis. Republicans hired a law firm to oversee the litigation, but the firm changed its mind in September and dropped the case. GOP leaders then hired a second firm, only to learn a month later that it dropped the case, too.
Now Boehner wants to add complaints to lawsuit, though at present, there is no lawsuit.
At this rate, Republicans might get around to filing the case, making their arguments, and receiving a verdict around the time Obama has left the White House.