As the Los Angeles Times' Mike Memoli reports, GOP House Speaker John Boehner now has the "authority" to file an unprecedented and likely doomed election-year lawsuit against President Barack Obama, in a move either considered a forestalling of impeachment proceedings or a prelude to them depending on who you talk to:
The House vote to sue President Obama is the first such legal challenge by a chamber of Congress against a president and a historic foray in the fight over constitutional checks and balances.
Wednesday’s nearly party-line vote followed a feisty floor debate and offered a fresh example of how the capital’s hyper-partisanship has led both parties into unprecedented territory, going to new and greater lengths to confront one another…
The House approved the resolution in a near party-line vote, 225 to 201. It authorizes House Speaker John A. Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama’s failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees.
That provision’s effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and now won’t fully take effect until 2016. The GOP-led House has voted to repeal the law, even as it seeks to sue Obama for failing to enforce it. [Pols emphasis]
The legal analysis we've seen suggests that this suit will quickly be dismissed as a "political question." The constitutional remedy of impeachment already exists to deal with the GOP's alleged grievances, and the political contrivance of this lawsuit is plainly evidenced by the subject matter–suing to force Obama to "enforce" a law they want to repeal. Despite these questions, all four Colorado Republican members of Congress, Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton, voted to allow Boehner to proceed.
As we discussed yesterday, Boehner's lawsuit against Obama is happening as talk of impeachment in Republican circles ramps up dramatically. Democrats have used prominent Republicans like Sarah Palin calling for impeachment to great effect in the last couple of weeks raising money, while establishment Republicans like Boehner have insisted that no plan to impeach Obama is in the offing. Given Congress' abysmal popularity ratings and the public's cynicism over the gridlocked state of national politics, impeachment talk seems wildly irresponsible–unless you're in the target audience for it. For committed base conservatives who have been getting propagandized for six years about how Obama's presidency means the end of America as we know it, impeachment probably seems like a natural, even overdue development.
Outside the right wing's impenetrable bubble of self-reinforcing groupthink, it sounds like madness. And Republicans like John Boehner, who are tasked today with keeping the "Tea Party's" five-year-old rage productive while simultaneously winning votes from reasonable Americans, know it.
It's tough to say what happens next. Boehner's lawsuit faces very long odds, not just for success but even for public support. Outside the conservative coalition it's a nonstarter, and on the right there are those who say the lawsuit is useless and Republicans should be moving directly to impeachment. If the whole effort blows up in the GOP's face, Republicans in swing races like Gardner and Coffman could well be the ones who pay the price.