Is Boehner Sidestepping the Constitution to Protect It?

I don’t really understand it. In an unprecedented move, House Republicans (aside from five) carried the vote to sue President Barack Obama. Not impeach him. Sue him. What does that even mean? It’s never been done before, and for good reason. It’s ridiculous. John Boehner, the chameleon responsible for the lawsuit against Obama, offered his justification for the bizarre legal action:

There must be accountability. We have a system of government outlined in our Constitution with the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Congress has its job to do, and so does the President. When there are conflicts like this—between the legislative branch and the executive branch—it is my view that it is our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve, and for the Constitution. . . .

Over the last five years, starting—not coincidentally—when his political party lost the majority in the House of Representatives, the President has consistently overstepped his authority under the Constitution, and in so doing eroded the power of the legislative branch.

The legislative branch has an obligation to defend the rights and responsibilities of the American people, and America’s constitutional balance of powers—before it is too late.

But what is so ironic about all these espousals concerning the Constitution is that Boehner himself is sidestepping the Constitution’s limitations with this lawsuit. The Constitution does not have any stipulations for one half of one branch of the federal government to file a lawsuit against another branch of government. If President Obama is overstepping his boundaries, he should be impeached. That would be upholding the Constitution.

But Boehner knows that won’t work. If he followed the letter of the Constitution here, the House of Representatives would file formal allegations, after which, the Senate would hold a trial concerning those allegations. As is clear from the House vote on the lawsuit, filing formal allegations (“impeaching” the President) would be possible. But Boehner knows the Senate would dismiss the case. In the end, impeachment wouldn’t accomplish Boehner’s goals. So he is pursuing other methods, which just happen to be extra-Constitutional.

That’s the irony. Boehner, knowing the constitutional process would be stymied by the DNC-led Senate, is sidestepping the Senate’s role in impeachment and bringing the House’s case directly to the President in a lawsuit. In other words, he is doing exactly what he accuses Obama of doing—sidestepping constitutional procedures and structures in order to accomplish his own goals.

It doesn’t matter whether we agree with Boehner’s goals or allegations. What matters is that the constitutional process is not being followed. And even then, this lawsuit will do nothing. Obama has already made it clear that he will keep using his “pen and phone” strategy (executive orders and personal leverage) to accomplish his will. Boehner’s lawsuit does nothing but break down the Constitution even more.

Five Republicans voted against the lawsuit. It is interesting to note that Paul Broun (R-GA), perhaps the strictest and most consistent Constitutionalist in the whole House, was one of them. Because even when (perhaps especially when) your opponent is cheating, it is important for those who want to uphold the law in principle to continue upholding it in practice, even when it puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Otherwise, what are they even fighting for?

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