Nevada Congressmen Joe Heck and Mark Amodei could have made a difference Wednesday.
Instead of voting to authorize a legally questionable, highly dubious lawsuit against President Barack Obama, they could have stood up, said enough is enough, and voted no.
Five Republicans did just that, as did every single Democrat in the House, but the measure still passed 225-201. So now, we can look forward to the pathetic spectacle of Boehner v. Obama.
Let’s assume, entirely for the sake of argument, that the House establishes that it has standing to sue the president over the implementation of the law. (That’s dubious, inasmuch as they would have to show they had suffered an injury as a result of the president’s action, one that could be remedied by a federal court.)
And let’s assume, again, just for argument’s sake, that the courts don’t dismiss the lawsuit as a political question to be solved by the legislative branch and executive branch without judicial intervention.
And finally, let’s assume that the House correctly identifies a legal mechanism that could be used to force the president to take a particular action, such as a writ of mandamus, that would pass muster with the judicial branch.
What then? Well, the House might then succeed in winning a judgment that says the Obama administration … must immediately and fully implement all provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation they have repeatedly and bitterly denounced, and tried scores of times to repeal in whole or in part.
That’s right: The best case scenario is that House Republicans would have forced the implementation of certain provisions of a law they hate. (Even more delicious? Those same Republicans wanted businesses to have relief from the mandate.)
This only makes sense when one considers that the GOP obviously hates Obama more than it hates his signature health care reform. But let’s all keep this in mind the next time we hear Republicans talking about tort reform.
Amodei’s spokesman didn’t return an email seeking an explanation, but Heck spokesman Greg Lemon shared the congressman’s reasoning: “This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats or the speaker of the House versus the president,” Heck’s statement reads. “It is about the Constitution and three separate but co-equal branches of government. A president, any president, cannot unilaterally change or interpret legislation as passed by the Congress and signed into law. The Constitution says the president must faithfully execute the laws, and makes clear that only the legislative branch has the power to legislate.”
My view is that Obama should have implemented the Affordable Care Act — the whole thing, including the mandate for employers to offer health care to their workers — without delay. He and many other people in Washington, D.C., including most especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, worked tirelessly for months to get it passed. It became the law of the land by the barest of majorities, but it is nonetheless the law. Obama’s good intentions aside — he wanted to avoid even more problems implementing the legislation — he and his government should have forged ahead.
But the remedy for failing to do so is not a lawsuit. First, it’s political. Obama was reluctant to return to Congress, with the House having been taken over by the GOP after the Affordable Care Act passed. He suspected, with good reason, that Republicans would use the opportunity to gut the law, not help properly implement it.
Second, if the House really believes Obama has taken actions, or failed to act, in ways that violate his oath of office, the remedy is clear: impeachment. But Boehner knows he doesn’t have the support for that. (In fact, some have suggested this lawsuit is a sop to the more radical wing of the party, which would love to see Obama impeached.)
This lawsuit is a colossally silly action. By lending their names to it, no matter how high-minded their rhetoric, Amodei and Heck have missed an opportunity to stand up for common sense and against misguided, frivolous acts of political theater.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.