Americans first learned back on June 24
, more than four months ago, about the House Republican plan to file a lawsuit against President Obama. Two weeks later, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the basis for the case: the GOP would sue to implement an obscure provision
of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans don't actually want to see implemented.
When the case was announced, congressional Republicans made it seem as if they were headed to court as part of a bold move to preserve our constitutional system of government against the tyrannical moves of a lawless presidency. But four months later, it looks as if Boehner & Co. got lost on the way to the courthouse.
Josh Gerstein reports
that the case hasn't even been filed yet.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the Capitol to the federal courthouse just down the hill, but House Republicans haven't managed to make that trip in the four months since they announced they'd be suing the president. House Speaker John Boehner came out swinging hard last June when he announced that his chamber would take President Barack Obama to court. The suit, charging that the president grossly exceeded his constitutional authority by failing to implement portions of the Obamacare law, was billed as an election-season rallying point for aggrieved Republicans. But days before the midterms, the House's legal guns seem to have fallen silent. Lawyers close to the process said they originally expected the legal challenge to be filed in September, but now they don't expect any action before the elections.
Republicans not only won't file the case, they also refuse to say why they won't file the case -- party officials refused to explain the delay when asked by Politico for comment.
"I thought this was a constitutional crisis and the republic was in jeopardy because Obama overstepped his bounds. Now, they can't even get around to filing it?" former Democratic House Counsel Stan Brand told Gerstein. "It, to me, emphasizes the not-serious nature of it."
This arguably understates matters.
When, back in July, Speaker John Boehner secured House authorization to file suit against President Obama for "changing the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law," cynical Democrats derided the planned litigation as a "political stunt," a talking point for the fall campaign playbook. But a report by the apolitical Congressional Research Service (CRS), completed on September 4, but never released by the member who sponsored it, nor mentioned in the press, indicates that the Democrats were not cynical enough. Now, three months after the party-line House vote to green-light the lawsuit, no complaint has yet been filed. If this stretched out delay means that Boehner has actually redirected his sue-Obama gambit toward oblivion, the reason may be this unnoticed six week old CRS report.
The non-partisan CRS, which effectively serves as Congress' in-house think tank, found that the case is built on a faulty premise and would not succeed. Lazarus and Stein added that the CRS was apparently requested by Republicans "to give some color of legitimacy to their charges of rampant presidential illegality." When the findings offered proof of the opposite, Republicans buried it. "[T]he result validates the lawyers' maxim not to ask a question when unsure of the likely answer," Lazarus and Stein noted.
This GOP stunt was always rather pathetic. Now, however, the charade appears to be over.
As should have been obvious all along, Republicans were never serious about this litigation. GOP officials were so wholly invested in a ridiculous talking point -- our rascally president has transformed into a dictator -- they saw a lawsuit as a way to bolster a misguided public-relations campaign.
But it quickly backfired. The basis for the lawsuit was hard to take seriously
; the case was going to cost American taxpayers money Republicans claim we don't have; it actually motivated the Democratic base in an election year; the narrow focus of the suit only helped reinforce the belief that the entire p.r. push was a baseless sham; and even the Congressional Research Service told GOP lawmakers not to bother.
The "constitutional crisis" was an election-year mirage, touted by con artists. Republicans may go through with the litigation anyway -- after the election, that is, once they're no longer worried about a political backlash for their partisan antics -- but as we were reminded
a month ago, the case isn't likely to go well.
It's not too late for Boehner to concede this was a bad idea from the start. Republicans can save us some time and aggravation, give up on the case, and play some other silly game.