One day before their 2014 5-week summer vacation, the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a vote of 225 – 201 authorizing the Speaker of the House – John Boehner – to sue the President for failing to fully enforce the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”).
Though House Republicans have held 50+ votes to undercut or repeal the ACA, they intend to sue the President for delaying enforcement of some ACA requirements, including the Act’s directives about employers who do not provide health care coverage for their employees. Arguing that the President is required to enforce the law, House Republicans state that the President has failed to timely enforce the very Act they have adamantly opposed.
House Democrats, who were joined in nay votes by 5 Republican Representatives, predictably state that the anticipated suit is a time-wasting political stunt. Dubbing the pro-suit move “impeachment lite,” Democrats argue that House Republicans passed the resolution to placate pro-impeachment hardliners without alienating most Americans. In support of their argument, Democrats referred to the traditional “motion to recommit” that allows the “losing side” to move for changes to a resolution at the last minute; though the suggested changes rarely succeed, they force members to vote on the record. In this instance, Republicans ignored requests for the traditional “motion to recommit,” supposedly because they would be forced to vote for or against outright impeachment of the President.
The pro-suit contingent faces two major problems. First, previous suits by members of Congress against both President George W. Bush and President Obama failed for lack of standing. In 2006, House Democrats sued President Bush over a budgetary detail – a minor inconsistency between the House and Senate budgetary bills cutting Medicaid and student loans – and were thrown out of court for lack of standing to sue because the Plaintiffs did not suffer actual injury. In 2014, a Republican Senator sued for the ACA’s effects on his staff; this lawsuit was also thrown out of court for lack of standing to sue. Secondly, public opinion is apparently weighing against the suit: a CNN poll released in late July 2014 indicated that Americans oppose the anticipated suit 57% – 41%; a CBS poll released after the House vote indicated that Americans oppose the suit 54% – 37%; and my own review of reader responses indicate that a number of people wish they could sue the House of Representatives instead. While polls and readers’ comments are necessarily based on a limited number of responses and are subject to margins of error, the results do not bode well politically for pro-suit politicians.
There is no set timeline for the suit itself and it is not expected before the November 2014 elections.
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.