US House Speaker John Boehner gestures before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address on January 28, 2014.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

An old lie makes a shameful comeback

Updated
USA Today ran an editorial today on House Republicans’ anti-Obama lawsuit, and the paper was clearly unimpressed, calling it a “political sideshow.” As the paper always does, it then ran a companion opinion piece making the opposite case. Defending the litigation was, of course, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The basic pitch was copy-and-paste boilerplate, but it included something specific that’s worth additional attention.
 
I believe the president’s actions in a number of areas – including job-destroying energy regulations, releasing the “Taliban 5” from Guantanamo without notice and waiving the work requirements in welfare – exceed his constitutional authority.
Remember, Boehner – or whoever writes these unpersuasive missives for the Speaker – could have picked any examples he wanted to bolster the case. If Obama “exceeds his constitutional authority” all of the time, as congressional Republicans claim, Boehner and his office presumably have a lengthy list to choose from.
 
And what did the Speaker come up with? Climate regulations, in a rather literal sense, can’t be an example of the president “exceeding his constitutional authority” – using the Clean Air Act to address the climate crisis has already been authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court. A prisoner swap to free an American POW is also a bizarre example, since prisoner swaps do not require congressional or judicial approval. In other words, Boehner’s 0 for 2.
 
And then there’s the claim that President Obama “waived the work requirement in welfare.” This is a lie, and if Boehner doesn’t know that, the Speaker owes the public an explanation for how he can be so uninformed.
 
We last covered this in March, when former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) alluded to the same falsehood, but in case anyone’s forgotten, let’s quickly review reality.
 
In the president’s first term, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway – so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened.
 
That’s not “waiving the work requirements in welfare”; that’s the opposite. Providing governors, including several Republicans, the flexibility they requested to help move beneficiaries back into the workforce is exactly the sort of power-to-the-states policy that Boehner and his cohorts usually like.
 
But in 2012, the policy inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to turn this into a rather shameless lie, accusing Obama of weakening welfare work requirements. The more fact-checkers went berserk, the more aggressive Romney became in pushing the lie. One can only speculate as to the rationale behind the ugly falsehood, though the Republican presidential campaign seemed quite eager at the time to use the words “Obama” and “welfare” in the same sentence, even after the GOP candidate and his team realized they were lying.
 
Two years later, Boehner is echoing the racially charged falsehood for no reason. If the Speaker is struggling to defend his frivolous lawsuit, that’s unfortunate, but it’s no excuse to repeat a shameful lie.
 

Barack Obama, John Boehner, Welfare and Welfare Reform

An old lie makes a shameful comeback

Updated