Boehner’s lawsuit: A double-edged sword

An important, though risky, move.New York Daily News

Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to sue the President for failing to execute the laws of our country isn’t as crazy (gasp!) as some think. And it isn’t, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it, “subterfuge.”

It is, after six long years of presidential overreach and run-around, in fact the only logical and responsible next step – and perhaps the kindest both to the country and the President.  

As former Speaker Newt Gingrich told me last week, “There are three Constitutional mechanisms for Congress to control a President who’s behaving illegally: Impeach him, sue him and cut off the money. And of the three, suing him is actually the least disruptive to the economy and the country.”

The President’s commitment to expanding executive authority has not merely been a frustration for Republicans. It’s also been an issue for the Supreme Court, which has unanimously ruled against the administration’s attempts at overreach a dozen times, including on Thursday, when it declared several recent recess appointments unlawful.

Obama has defended his executive imperialism by blaming Republican obstructionists who give him no choice. And so he’s simply removed them – elected though they are – from the process.

But what few point out is that in an attempt to marginalize Congressional Republicans with whom he disagrees, he’s simultaneously managed to marginalize Congressional Democrats as well.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other Democrats have complained about a variety of presidential runs around Congress – including military intervention in Libya, withholding details of the NSA spying program and an unaccountable drone program, making the Gitmo prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl without informing them, etc.

While going it alone on these things prevented Republicans from challenging the President, it also left Democrats holding a pretty odious bag, which then had to be explained to alarmed constituents back home.

Republicans can perhaps understand why the President has locked them out. But Democrats – many of whom have doggedly defended the President’s controversial and in some cases failed agenda for years – should be equally as offended. And so should voters who had a reasonable expectation that when they sent their representatives to Washington, they would actually have a say.

To be clear, Boehner’s move to sue the President wasn’t just a reaction to a frustrating history of un-Constitutional overreach and Congressional neglect. It was also most certainly a political calculation.

This primary season has been particularly kind to establishment Republicans, locking out more strident candidates like Chris McDaniels in Mississippi, Matt Bevin in Kentucky, T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma and Tom Tancredo in Colorado. Speaker Boehner knows that those campaigns were inspired by very real frustrations among voters, which won’t magically dissipate with their losses.

Vowing to check the President’s powers is one way he can tell those voters they have not be forgotten.

But there are risks. Democrats have been running on fumes in recent months, thanks to burgeoning foreign policy disasters, Obama’s tanking approval numbers, domestic scandals that won’t go away, and an economic agenda that isn’t exactly fireworks for voters. There’s no government shutdown threat from the right to fundraise on, and with every primary there are fewer “extremist” candidates to campaign against.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi mocked the Boehner lawsuit as an attempt to give Republicans “an aura of activity” during an election year – but it might just be the other way around, infusing Democrats on life support with renewed mojo.

So the lawsuit is a move Republicans are right to pursue but may come to regret. If they follow it with talk of impeachment – Boehner has promised he wouldn’t – it may diminish the significant headway the GOP’s made going into the 2016 midterm elections.

If he’s smart, Boehner will frame this suit as an attempt to check the President on behalf of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as their constituents. He should say that Dianne Feinstein’s voice is as important as Ted Cruz’s, and that ultimately Obama’s overreach is a slap in the face to voters who expect their representatives to be heard, even if the President doesn’t like what they have to say.

Contact S.E. Cupp at

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