Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has been campaigning for weeks on end now threatening a lawsuit against President Barack Obama based upon claims of over exerted use of the President’s executive actions.
Specifically, Mr. Boehner alleges, “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…No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.” Boehner said he planned to bring legislation to the House floor this month to seek a green light for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, consisting of three Republicans and two Democrats, to file a lawsuit against President Obama.
Many politicians have taken the stance that this threatened lawsuit is just a political stunt and/or ploy generated prior to midterm election, including President Obama who notes that “Republican obstructionism” left him with little to no choice but to act alone on matters such as health care. “So sue me,” Obama said last week. “As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Though there are currently no laws stopping the lower chamber of Congress from bringing a lawsuit against the president alleging abuse of executive power, there appears to be no precedent of anything like this happening before. In the past, most courts have thrown out lawsuits such as this, and have shied away from getting involved in these political matters. One example noted in a recent MSNBC.com article is when 26 members of Congress attempted to sue President Bill Clinton over the U.S. participation in airstrikes against Yugoslavia. In this instance, a federal judge dismissed the case and said the group lacked legal standing (i.e. – the capacity of a party to bring suit in a court) to act on behalf of the entire Congress.
Not only has there been no precedence in any lawsuit like this succeeding, many political insiders believe Mr. Boehner’s efforts are futile and a waste of time. “There are a lot of reasons why you can think this will fail. There are not many reasons why you think this would ever success,” said John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. He went on to note that while the measure would more than likely pass in the House, there would be numerous roadblocks thereafter including “issues of standing, finding specific issues on where Obama has overstepped…and courts may simply defer to the president.”
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
At the Federal level, legal proceedings and actions cannot be brought simply because an individual or group is not pleased with a government action or law. Federal courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes if there is enough direct stake in an action or law to challenge it. This standing doctrine is derived from the U.S. Constitution’s Article III provision that federal courts have the power to hear cases arising under federal law and controversies involving certain types of parties.
Though Obama has used executive actions on matters involving the delay of certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, the federal minimum wage and new environmental regulations, he has, in fact, issued fewer executive orders than those presidents who served before him. President Obama, to date, has issued approximately 182 executive orders, while President George W. Bush issued 291, President Bill Clinton issued 364 and President Ronald Reagan issued 381.
Even if the GOP continues with its efforts to sue President Obama, it could take years for it to make its way through federal court.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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