Civilized conversations between DC's top politicos and journalists

Boehner serious about suing Obama, House Judiciary chairman says

At a Monitor Breakfast with reporters, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said Boehner has been getting advice from constitutional scholars and trial attorneys about a House lawsuit against Obama.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee speaks at a Monitor breakfast with reporters on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court ruling Thursday that President Obama violated the Constitution by going around the Senate on select recess appointments is being particularly welcomed by House Republicans.

Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who earlier this week announced an effort to sue the president for executive overreach, said in a statement Thursday that the high court’s decision “offers encouragement to Americans who have watched with concern as the president has declined to faithfully execute our laws.”

In his statement, Speaker Boehner added a plug for coming House action to “protect our system of government and our economy from continued executive abuse.”

Some legal scholars say a House lawsuit against the president has no hope of succeeding because of the courts’ traditional reluctance to involve themselves in what they consider political disputes between the executive and legislative branches. These experts point out the difficulty of proving that a legislative body has legal standing to bring a suit, i.e., that it can show that it has been harmed.

But at a Monitor breakfast Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, challenged those arguments. He said Boehner is looking at a House lawsuit in a “careful, studious manner.” The speaker, he said, has been getting advice from constitutional scholars and trial attorneys about the type of lawsuit and the appropriate standing for a suit by the US House.

Chairman Goodlatte pointed to a wide array of examples in which he believes the president has not taken care to faithfully execute the law, as required by the Constitution. Among them: implementation of the Affordable Care Act, not enforcing drug laws, and not enforcing immigration laws.

The president’s decision to defer deportation for certain children of illegal immigrants has directly contributed to the surge of minors from Central America flooding the border, he said. Goodlatte pointed to the cost to taxpayers of executive overreach by citing the president’s estimate that handling the influx of minors at the border will cost at least $1 billion more than has been appropriated.

“We have heard from a number of constitutional scholars … who believe that we have standing to undertake many of these issues,” Goodlatte said. He pointed as an example to the House Oversight Committee’s lawsuit against Eric Holder for refusing to hand over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” case. The case is languishing in the courts – much to Goodlatte’s frustration – but it has not been dismissed for lack of standing, he pointed out.

Goodlatte insisted that the disagreements between the House and the executive branch are not political, but constitutional. “Courts have absented themselves from major disputes about the meaning of … the power of the Congress and the power of the president” in the Constitution, he said. “They should take those matters up and give their interpretation of what the Constitution says.”

Of course, he added, the House can’t “dictate” that the courts take up a complaint. But, he added, “I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this with some members of the Supreme Court and it’s my hope that they will take a fresh look at this.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.