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House GOP will sue President Obama over health care mandate

Speaker John Boehner is asking the House to authorize legal action against the White House over its implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Image: John Boehner Holds Press Briefing At The Capitol
U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers questions during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Speaker John Boehner has released a bill that would authorize him to sue the White House over its implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 

"The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws -- at times even boasting about it," Boehner said in a statement Thursday. "He has said that if Congress won't make the laws he wants, he'll go ahead and make them himself, and in the case of the employer mandate in his health care law, that's exactly what he did."

Boehner announced the lawsuit weeks ago, but until now it was unclear which of the House GOP's numerous grievances with the White House would be included.

"No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own."'

The legislative text, drafted by Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, grants Boehner the authority to seek legal action to challenge the White House's decision to delay the health care law's employer mandate until 2016. 

"In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it," Boehner said. "That's not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own."

Republican lawmakers have long complained that Obama overstepped his authority by delaying portions of Obamacare, especially the employer mandate, to help smooth its tumultuous rollout. That's not to say they wanted the underlying policies to be implemented -- the House passed legislation last year that would have delayed the mandate as well as other requirements of the law -- just that they thought the president lacked the ability to do so unilaterally. 

The White House immediately dismissed the potential suit as a "political stunt" and a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. "At a time when Washington should be working to expand economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the President on behalf of hardworking Americans," the White House Press Secretary said in statement. "As the President said today, he is doing his job – lawsuit or not – and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, also condemned the legal challenge, calling it "another toxic partisan stunt" by the House GOP. 

"Time and again, House Republicans' total abdication of responsibility has forced the President to act," Pelosi said in a statement. "They've wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail."

House Republicans see it differently. "There are many examples of executive overreach by the president, but his actions on the health care law are the ones that give the House the best chance of success in the courts," a GOP leadership aide said.

It is notable that the lawsuit bill does not include anything to do with immigration, another area where Republicans have repeatedly criticized the president for allegedly overstepping his executive authority. 

GOP leaders for years have decried Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary relief from deportation to young undocumented immigrants, as unconstitutional. House Republicans even passed an amendment by anti-immigration firebrand Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to defund it last year, which the Senate ignored. These criticisms have only intensified in recent weeks as top GOP officials have accused DACA, with limited evidence, of causing the current wave of Central American children at the border by creating confusion as to whether they could gain legal status if they showed up.

But offering legal status to high-achieving young immigrants in the United States, known as DREAMers, is a popular political position. So popular that even a number of conservative Republicans critical of Obama's demands for reform, like Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, have suggested at points that they might be open to legislation addressing the issue. By targeting DACA in the lawsuit, Boehner -- having already killed immigration reform -- would have positioned the GOP even more decisively as the party of mass deportations, further cementing its toxic standing with Latino voters.