Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday he plans to sue President Barack Obama, accusing him of abusing his authority by going around Congress to implement his policy agenda.
The suit, to be filed by the House of Representatives later this summer, takes issue with executive actions Obama has taken on issues ranging from healthcare to energy to foreign policy, Boehner said. But he declined to be specific about which administration actions he would challenge.
“The Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the law. In my view, the president has not faithfully executed the law,” Boehner told reporters.
In a memo to Republican lawmakers, the speaker said Obama’s actions risked giving the president a “king-like authority” at the expense of U.S. voters and Congress.
Obama has increasingly used executive orders this year to advance his agenda in the face of a gridlocked Congress. He raised the minimum wage for federal contractors and stopped the deportation of young people brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Obama also recently extended family leave rights nationwide to workers in same-sex marriages, and barred contractors from discriminating against gay employees.
Boehner’s memo said he will bring legislation to a floor vote in July authorizing the House general counsel to file the suit. The case would take months to work its way through the courts, but it would give Republicans new fodder to try to sway voters in the November congressional elections.
“I think Speaker Boehner is being a very effective advertisement for the Republican Party,” said John Hudak, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution. “He’s playing to his base.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had “solid legal rationale” for his actions and added Congress should work with the administration instead of taking it to court.
“The fact that they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the president of the United States for doing his job, I think is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t support,” Earnest said.
Legal experts said U.S. courts are generally reluctant to wade into what they perceive as political fights between Congress and the White House.
Stanley Brand, who served as the House’s general counsel under the late Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, said a narrowly focused suit has a better chance of success, particularly when it comes to Supreme Court review.
A suit as broad as the one envisioned by Boehner would face skepticism from judges, Brand said.
“They’re not referees of political disputes, they’re arbiters of concrete action,” he said. “The courts are not going to supervise a president that way. I don’t want to say it’s harebrained, but it’s close to it.”