WASHINGTON – Philadelphia-area Republicans voted Wednesday to support a measure authorizing House Speaker John Boehner to sue President Obama for overstepping his authority.
U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent, Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach and Pat Meehan – of Pennsylvania – and South Jersey’s Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Chris Smith all supported the bill, which passed a sharply divided House in a 225-201 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill. Five conservative Republicans opposed it – likely because they didn’t think the suit went far enough.
Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, referred to law professor Jonathan Turley, who has criticized Obama for overreaching.
“He expressed at the judiciary committee that, unfortunately, the president has overstepped his authority under the constitution, fairly clearly, that the House of Representatives has a very strong and firm basis to object and that an action would have merit,” Fitzpatrick said before the vote. “I would hope the president would come to Congress and ask for changes to the law rather than ignoring, bypassing or skirting the law, that’s what we seek.”
Boehner has said his lawsuit would center on Obama’s decision to delay parts of the health care law the president has championed. While Republicans have sharply criticized the law, Fitzpatrick said changes should be made through the legislative process.
Asked about his views on the bill, LoBiondo, of Atlantic County, said only “the Constitution is important,” and stepped into an elevator.
Smith, of Mercer County, said “there’s been far too much lawlessness on the part of this administration.”
“It’s not that he doesn’t even follow the spirit of the law, he doesn’t follow the letter of the law,” Smith said of Obama. “It’s a very serious attempt to say that in a country that brags about being a rule of law country, you have to follow the rule of law, even when you don’t agree with it.”
But Democrats have accused Republicans of instead seeking an issue that can energize their base. The GOP, in turn, has accused Democrats of trying to scare up support and donations by warning that Republicans are on the march toward impeachment. The Democrats’ congressional campaign arm said this week that it has raised $7.6 million since Boehner announced plans in late June to sue Obama.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.) listed more than a dozen pressing issues – including the fighting in Gaza, unemployment, higher education costs, immigration reform and gun control – that he said the GOP could be addressing instead of taking up the lawsuit two days before the August Congressional recess.
“What a colossal waste of time,” Pascrell said in a speech on the House floor. “We know why the majority is focusing on this instead of trying to solve the country’s problems: it’s because they have no solutions. We haven’t heard any, unless you’re keeping them in a secret black box.”
He also embraced the political advantage Democrats seem to see in the lawsuit.
“The House of Representatives is apparently taking its marching orders from Sarah Palin,” Pascrell said. He slapped his chest and looked at fellow Democrats – “good for us.”
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) sent out a tweet saying that “instead of wasting taxpayer dollars” on the lawsuit they should pass a minimum wage increase. He included the hashtag #DoYourJobHouseGOP.
Fitzpatrick first associated himself with the idea of suing Obama in February, when he hosted a press conference outside the Capitol featuring a Florida orthodontist who sued Obama over the decision to delay parts of the health law. The doctor, Larry Kawa, called Obama an “imperial president.”
In March Kawa took out a full-page ad in the Inquirer (his American Courage political action committee paid $4,230 for it) praising Fitzpatrick “for defending the U.S. Constitution.”
You can follow Tamari on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.