House Speaker John Boehner is being criticized for his proposal to sue the President
Conservative critics say a lawsuit is a political stunt in an election year
Critics on the left agree
The terms of a suit are still vague and unclear, even to Boehner
Man up. Afraid. Feckless.
Those are terms used to describe House Speaker John Boehner and his plan to sue President Barack Obama. And those are just from from critics on the right.
Since Boehner announced his intention nearly two weeks ago, reaction has been mixed – at best.
Republican anger over the President’s sidestepping of a stalemated Congress to use his “pen and phone” on issues of immigration, minimum wage, LGBT rights and energy production is for real and far reaching.
Boehner’s attempt to answer what he considers a rogue presidency is to sue.
“The President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives through executive action, changing and creating his own laws, and excusing himself from enforcing statutes he is sworn to uphold,” Boehner wrote in an op-ed on CNN.com over the weekend.
But sharp critics say taking Obama to court isn’t the right one.
Naysayers on the right …
Chief among them is Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative blog Red State.
“John Boehner’s lawsuit is nothing more than political theater and a further Republican waste of taxpayer dollars,” he wrote Monday.
He also said Boehner needs to “man up” in more ways than one.
“John Boehner and the House Republicans may lack the testicular fortitude to fight President Obama,” Erickson wrote.
Another conservative naysayer, columnist and author Andrew McCarthy, called Boehner’s actions “feckless.”
“Boehner and Beltway Republicans are essentially saying, ‘We can’t use our power because Obama and his media friends would say mean things about us. But our lunatic conservative base is demanding action. So let us file a lawsuit so we can say we did something,’ ” McCarthy wrote (sarcastically), dissecting Boehner’s suit threat.
“Now that’s leadership!” McCarthy added.
For those two, anything short of impeachment is weak and chalked up to political drama in an election year.
Proof that political foes do see eye to eye, the White House gleefully seized the opportunity to promote Erickson.
… and the left
Critics on the left, who obviously don’t support impeachment but are critical of Boehner, are making similar claims. They point to holes in Boehner’s claim.
Commentator Sally Kohn offered this suggestion to Boehner in a CNN.com op-ed: “Please exercise your (authority) and pass some laws to help America instead of wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit that is nothing more than a flagrant partisan stunt.”
As for Obama, he dismissed the threat, saying, “So, sue me.”
“Middle class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff,” he said last week.
The merits of a suit
Boehner has given few details and specifics of his complaint. In his op-ed, he points to the use of executive action, says the President is “ignoring” 40 bills the House passed focused on job creation and insists Obama ignores “laws written.” But he has failed to specify which of Obama’s 182 executive actions are problematic and which laws he’s ignored.
In a memo to House Republicans, Boehner indicated the areas of concern pertains to issues of foreign policy, health care, energy and education – a wide swath of issues.
But Boehner has provided few details because the depth and merits of a suit are still unclear.
Before the suit is even drafted, the House must pass an authorization to sue Obama. Then a bipartisan committee with a majority of Republicans will formulate the terms of the suit by dissecting all of his actions and determining which have the most legal weight in a court.
The lawyers Boehner consulted on the issue wrote that the House must “demonstrate a concrete, particularized injury, caused by the defendant, which can be remedied by a court.”
Perhaps providing more insight in a column, the lawyers, David Rivkin Jr. and Elizabeth Price Foley, were more specific about areas of concern than Boehner.
“With the stroke of a magisterial pen, he has gutted large swaths of federal law that enjoy bipartisan support, including the Clinton-era welfare reform work requirement, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and the classification of marijuana as an illegal controlled substance,” they wrote.
Regardless, it’s a process that is likely to draw out into the fall, positioning itself close to the midterm elections.
“This is a political positioning of the House Republicans,” CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
CNN’s Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.