WASHINGTON - The House’s vote to sue President Obama is the first such legal challenge by a chamber of Congress against a president, and it is a historic foray in the fight over constitutional checks and balances.
Wednesday’s nearly party-line vote followed a feisty floor debate and offered a fresh example of how the capital’s hyperpartisanship has led both parties into unprecedented territory, going to new and greater lengths to confront one another.
Two years ago, the GOP-led House became the first to hold a sitting Cabinet secretary in contempt of Congress, after it accused Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. of defying their request to turn over records about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast and Furious gun-running operation.
Last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate changed the body’s long-standing filibuster rules in response to what they said was blatant obstruction by the minority GOP of presidential nominations, including the first-ever filibuster of a nominee for defense secretary.
November’s elections could further exacerbate tensions in Washington, especially if Republicans — who already hold the House — gain control of the Senate. They need a net gain of six seats to do so.
The House approved the resolution to sue in a near party-line vote, 225-201. It authorizes House Speaker John Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama’s failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees.
That provision’s effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and now won’t fully take effect until 2016. The GOP-led House has voted to repeal the law, even as it seeks to sue Obama for failing to enforce it.