Republicans ready to push lawsuit against Obama
Washington - Republicans were ready to approve legislation on Wednesday authorising an election-year lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding his powers in enforcing his signature health care law.
The lawsuit was expected to pass through the House of Representatives on strictly party lines. Democrats dismiss it as a costly political charade aimed at stirring up Republican voters ahead of the November congressional elections.
Democrats also say it's also an effort by top Republicans to mollify conservatives who want Obama to be impeached - something that House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday he has no plans to do.
"This lawsuit is frivolous on steroids," Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings said on Tuesday as the House Rules Committee met to clear the way for Wednesday's debate. "It's absolutely insane what you all are doing."
Violating constitutional duty
Speculation about impeachment has been popular among conservative activists and some lawmakers, despite Boehner's dismissal.
Democrats have capitalised on the impeachment chatter, sending fund-raising pleas to their own supporters warning that Republicans are out to impeach Obama and ruin his presidency.
Using that pitch, Democrats raised $1 million on Monday, according to the head of the House Democratic campaign organisation, Rep. Steve Israel.
Republicans are expected to keep their House majority after November's elections and hope to gain control of the Senate. They say the House's planned legal action is warranted because Obama has violated his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
They say that instead, Obama has enforced laws as he wants to, dangerously shifting power to the presidency from Congress.
"It is to preserve this country, the separation of powers and the rule of law," said Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx.
'Year of action'?
The lawsuit will focus on how Obama has carried out his health care overhaul, a 2010 law that is his most prized domestic achievement and that every Republican lawmaker opposed.
Republicans say Obama has illegally changed the law by using executive actions. The White House and Democrats say he's acted legally and within the latitude he's empowered to use as chief executive.
In particular, Republicans have objected that Obama has twice delayed the law's so-called employer mandate, which he did under pressure from business groups. The provision requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines, while businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempted.
Republicans say there are other examples of Obama exceeding his powers. These include failing to notify Congress in advance when he traded five Taliban members held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and unilaterally preventing the deportation of some children who illegally immigrated to the US.
They also point to Obama's comments in January that 2014 would be a "year of action" to implement his priorities, which he said he would do "with or without Congress" by using his "pen and the phone".
Despite these accusations, Republicans intend to limit their lawsuit to a narrow claim: that Obama has failed to faithfully carry out the health care law that, according to polls, remains poorly received by the public.
Republican officials say they decided to narrow the suit's focus after being advised by lawyers that their chances of succeeding would be stronger.
That seems unlikely to satisfy some conservatives, such as 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. "It's time to impeach; and on behalf of America we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment," she recently wrote.
Yet her opinion is not widely shared outside the Republican base. In a CNN survey last week, more than half of all Republicans said they favor Obama's impeachment, but that level that fell to one-third of the overall electorate. Among independents, 63% opposed it.
A lawsuit is also generally unpopular, but less so than impeachment would be, the poll indicated.