This past week many members of the media received an email from one of the most senior House Republicans about President Obama's use of executive orders. It has "threat" written all over it, from the headline to the actual press release.
The slug reads, "House Republicans Defend the Constitution Against Executive Abuses." The word "defends" typically implies action, but it could simply mean a verbal retort (as in an apologetic) as well. Would the House GOP be taking meaningful action?
Texas Congressman and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Kevin Brady, followed his headline with this statement following the successful passage of legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives which authorizes that body to sue the president.
"Average Americans must follow the law, so why doesn't the president of the United States?
"Whether you're Republican, Democrat, independent or libertarian, we can all agree that no president of any party should be able to pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore. The courts have repeatedly agreed that this White House has created laws where none exist and ignored others.
"Since the Attorney General of the U.S. won't uphold the rule of law, it's up to the House of Representatives to maintain the checks and balances within the Constitution that have served our country so well for more than two centuries. This blatant disregard for the Constitution leaves Congress very little choice - so for the sake of our children and grandchildren we must defend the Constitution and ensure that no politician can override the laws of our land."
This sounds great to conservatives, but what does it mean in substance? I asked the Congressman's press secretary, who provided a summary of the bill:
H.Res. 676 authorizes the Speaker to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in federal court. The resolution authorizes the Speaker to seek the appropriate relief regarding the failure of the president, cabinet member(s), or executive branch employee(s) to act in a manner consistent with that official's duties under the Constitution and U.S. laws with respect to implementation title 1 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including amendment(s) made by such provision or any other related provision of law, including failure to implement. The speaker is responsible for notifying the House of a decision to initiate or intervene in such action. The resolution also directs the Office of the General Counsel of the House of Representatives to represent the House in any civil action initiated or in which the House intervenes and authorizes the Office of General Counsel to employ outside counsel and experts, if needed, for this purpose. Finally, the resolution directs the Chair of the Committee on Administration to disclose in the Congressional Record a statement setting forth the aggregate amounts spent by the Office of the General Counsel and other experts on a quarterly basis.
The type of charges that the GOP accuse the president of would typically lead to impeachment, but with Democrat control of the Senate, such an attempt would be futile. Since they cannot get help from the other House, GOP Republicans are reaching out to the another branch of government -- the court -- to hold Barack Obama accountable. Then again, this president has had many run-ins with the court and has had no problem ignoring such decisions from the Judicial branch (most recently, a court decision on Obamacare subsidies).
This type of action by the House does little to help its weak position in the eyes of most voters, in my opinion. If they believe this president should be impeached, they should pursue it in spite of the political consequences. The motivation of not doing so because they doubt the Senate will take action is just as bad as the president's willingness to "disregard" the law. House Republicans have sworn to defend the Constitution. They believe the president is violating his oath to the point of impeachable offenses. Based on their very own logic, the House GOP members are also violating the Constitution by not abiding by their oath of office.
In the end, I believe this bill is more talk and less action by the House GOP. They are only muddying the issues by using extra-Constitutional efforts to solve their issues with the president.