(CNN) — The Republican-led House approved a resolution on Wednesday authorizing Speaker John Boehner to sue President Barack Obama over claims he abused his powers at the expense of Congress and the Constitution.
The vote was 225-201.
Republicans argue Obama’s executive orders in a number of areas were unlawful because it’s the job of Congress to make or change laws. But they believe his handling of the Affordable Care act gives them the best chance at proving their case, and are basing the suit on that issue.
House authorization now allows GOP-leaders to have the unusual challenge filed in federal court. The time frame for that is not clear and many legal experts question whether any judge would take it on.
Not a single House Democrat voted for the resolution and five Republicans opposed it. They were: GOP members Paul Broun of Maryland, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Steve Stockman of Texas, and Walter Jones of North Carolina.
The vote takes partisan rancor in Washington to a new level less than four months before congressional midterms with control of the Senate at stake.
The focus on Obamacare also magnifies politics around the sweeping health law Republicans didn’t support and have tried to derail since its approval in 2010. It also illustrates Obama’s attempts to act on his own with he and Congress getting nowhere on top-shelf legislative initiatives.
Dems claim impeachment coming
Democrats quickly seized to turn the debate on the lawsuit, saying prior to the vote that the real desire of the GOP is to ultimately impeach Obama.
Boehner, who has repeatedly said he disagrees with those pushing impeachment, attempted to shut down that discussion this week.
Insisting that Republicans have “no plans” and “no future plans” to impeach Obama, Boehner denounced the talk of it as “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”
But Democrats seized on polls showing a majority of Americans oppose any effort to remove the President from office, and aren’t letting go of the issue.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the lawsuit was “on a path to nowhere or maybe among some in your ranks, a path to impeachment.”
Apparently not satisfied with Boehner’s assurance, Pelosi directed this at him: “If you don’t want to hear people use the word impeachment, as your people have done, then tell them impeachment is off the table.”
Obama tweaks GOP on impeachment
Obama, himself, tweaked Republicans on Wednesday. In Kansas City, Missouri, he noted the House was about to leave Washington for the month of August, but “the main vote that they have scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job.”
During debate, Democrats lined up on their side of the chamber and one after the other requested that GOP leaders allow votes on measures to raise the minimum wage, extend jobless benefits, and ensure pay equity.
They knew Republicans wouldn’t hold off on the lawsuit to take any of those issues up, but the the theater was designed to underscore their argument that the majority party was focused on the lawsuit rather than legislating.
The campaign arm for House Democrats arm has raised $7.6 million from appeals to supporters citing the suit and tied it to the threat of impeachment.
Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, defended the aggressive public push and pledged Democrats would continue it through the midterm election in November.
“You bet we’re going to run on a Congress that is just obsessed with lawsuits, suing the President, talking about impeaching him, instead of solutions for the middle class,” Israel told CNN.
Americans don’t like suit, impeachment
A CNN/ORC International poll released last week showed those Americans surveyed, by a 57%-41% margin, opposed the lawsuit. Nearly two-thirds said Obama should not be impeached.
Texas Republican Pete Sessions responded to Democratic refrains that the resolution was the first step toward impeachment.
He said the House voted in 1998 to impeach Bill Clinton because “he lied to an FBI agent, he lied to a federal grand jury, and he violated the federal law which was a felony.”
But in Obama’s case, Republicans believe he isn’t “faithfully executing the laws,” which he has sworn to do, and “that is an entirely different process.”
Oregon Republican Greg Walden, chairman of the House Republican’s political operation, said “impeachment is not on table.”
And he issued a warning to fellow Republicans at a meeting, saying that any time the GOP raised the issue it only helped Democrats.
The Obamacare focus
When Boehner announced last month that he would sue Obama, he followed a course many tea party members and conservatives had urged for months.
They were especially angered by actions Obama took without consulting Congress to change or delay key Obamacare provisions, to allow children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, and to release Taliban prisoners from U.S. custody in exchange for Afghan war prisoner Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Initially, Boehner indicated the House would sue over Obama’s decision last summer to delay for a year a central health law requirement for businesses provide health coverage to their employees.
The House voted to do the same thing last July, but Republicans argued they did so to protect the integrity of Congress in the face of what they believed was executive overreach.
After consulting legal experts, the House resolution was tweaked to give Boehner more flexibility. It specified that the suit can cite the administration’s implementation of any provision of Obamacare.
The House’s Office of General Counsel will represent the House in court and the resolution gives it the authority to hire outside lawyers to finalize the legal strategy and file a formal complaint.
Many constitutional experts have raised doubts that the courts will take up the case. The legal burden will be on the House to present how it was damaged as an institution by the President’s actions.