So we finally have the Beltway GOP plan to confront Obama administration lawlessness. Make that, to have someone else confront Obama administration lawlessness. Is there a contest to name the Republican strategy? I’d call it: “Please Don’t Make Me Use My Powers … The Obamedia Might Say Mean Things About Me.”
Mr. Obama’s sweeping lawlessness, a comprehensive assault on the separation of powers, is the subject of my new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. The administration’s goal is to centralize governmental power in the executive branch. That is exactly what the separation of powers is designed to avoid, the Framers having grasped that the accumulation of all power in one set of hands had always been, and will always be, the road to tyranny.
Roll Call reports that House Speaker John Boehner (R., OH) will respond to this challenge to our constitutional framework by … wait for it … filing a lawsuit. The apparent aim of this theater is to persuade a judge to pronounce what is already patent: the president is flouting congressional statutes.
Speaker Boehner’s proposed suit is nearly as wayward as President Obama’s violation of his solemn oath to execute the laws faithfully. Under our system, in order to avoid having major public policy questions decided by the governmental branch that is not politically accountable to voters, the judiciary is limited to resolving concrete controversies — cases in which the party bringing the suit has actually been injured by a violation of law. Courts are thus prohibited from issuing advisory opinions: pronouncements that some course of conduct is or would be illegal.
Yet, that appears to be exactly what the speaker will ask them to do. Indeed Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, reminded Roll Call that the House has already passed a bill that would expedite court consideration of House resolutions enabling lawsuits that challenge executive overreach. “The House has passed legislation to address this, but it has gone nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate,” Mr. Steel explained, “so we are examining other options.”
Obviously, Republican leadership does not see its “other options” as including the exercise of powers the Constitution gives Congress to stop executive lawlessness in its tracks, namely, cutting off the executive branch’s funding and impeaching executive branch officials who violate the law, carry out lawless policy, mislead lawmakers, stonewall investigations, and frustrate Congress’s constitutional oversight function. In essence, Boehner & Co. are fecklessly asking the courts to do their heavy lifting for them — a classic case of assuming the pose of meaningful action while in reality doing nothing. And tune in next week when Republicans get back to complaining about how activist judges are making the law rather than interpreting it.
Republican lawmakers will plead with the courts to do something about Obama’s imperiousness because there is political risk in using their own authority. If they employ these game-ending powers, the president will use the bully pulpit to bully them and his media loyalists will echo the demagoguery from here to Election Day.
Clearly, Republicans doubt their competence to win this debate, to make presidential lawlessness the defining issue of our political discourse. They prefer to cruise quietly into November, and hope — as they did in 2012 — that the unpopularity of Obama’s agenda will be enough to carry them through the election. But they also know their agitated base is demanding that they do something to stop or slow the dizzying pace of Obama’s “Change,” which in just the last couple of weeks has given us: the VA scandal, ruinous EPA regulations, the release of top Taliban terrorists to return to the jihad, an invited invasion of thousands of illegal aliens across the Southern border, and revelations that executive officials destroyed key evidence in the IRS scandal.
So the GOP will substitute futile litigation for purposeful legislation. This, of course, is the same strategy that has saddled us with Obamacare: Take no real legislative action — in fact, continue funding the problem — and pray that the Supreme Court will be the grown-ups willing to strike down the law and bear the Obamedia wrath. That worked out well, no?