Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) made quite a name for himself last year, telling constituents, “I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America; I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”
The Republican lawmaker later tried to walk that back, and participated in a local TV interview that became the stuff of legend.
We learned last week, however, that Coffman may soon be famous for an entirely new reason (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
Rep. Mike Coffman announced Tues. that he may file a personal lawsuit against President Barack Obama over what Coffman sees as Obama’s abuse of power.Speaking on KHOW radio’s Mandy Connell show, Coffman said America is in a “Constitutional crisis” due to Obama’s “abuse of waving the so-called magic wand of this prosecutorial discretion.”Obama is “creating new law by not enforcing existing law, without going through Congress, a co-equal branch of government,” Coffman said on air.
To remedy this “crisis,” the Colorado congressman said, “My office is engaged in the legal research right now of how do we take on the administration. It appears right now that we may have to do it, that I may have to do it, or somebody may have to do it, as an individual, outside of Congress, to litigate on one of these issues, the constitutionality. And I think you can litigate on one of them and establish a precedent that impacts all of them.”
Even by congressional standards, this is deeply odd. For one thing, Coffman was rather vague about the nature of his perceived “crisis,” mentioning the international nuclear agreement with Iran (which is perfectly legal) and welfare-to-work waivers the White House extended to Republican governors (which enjoyed bipartisan support). If a member of Congress believes the president has created a constitutional crisis, shouldn’t the lawmaker offer some, you know, proof?
For another, prosecutorial discretion isn’t exactly a novel approach adopted by the executive branch. Every administration will have to prioritize between competing policies while budgeting limited resources.
And finally, Coffman is welcome to “engage in legal research” with his staff, but this isn’t especially complicated: the administration is already acting within existing legal limits. If Congress wants to enact new limits, it can try passing legislation for a change.
Coffman can take his complaints to a judge if he wants, but the congressman should probably keep expectations low.