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Casting Barack Obama as a president run amok, the House voted on Wednesday for a bill that would expedite congressional lawsuits against the chief executive for failure to enforce federal laws.
The vote was 233-181 in the Republican-led House as GOP lawmakers excoriated Obama for multiple changes to his 4-year-old health care law, steps he’s taken to allow young immigrants to remain in the United States and the administration’s resistance to defend the federal law banning gay marriage.
Ignoring a White House veto threat, the GOP maintained that the bill was necessary as the president has selectively enforced the nation’s laws.
“Throughout the Obama presidency we have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn’t get his way,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Democrats countered that the legislation was merely election-year rhetoric to address a non-existent problem. The measure stands no chance in the Democratic-led Senate.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., defended Obama and said Republicans weren’t satisfied with a “do-nothing Congress,” they wanted to “have a do-nothing president.”
Under the bill, the House or Senate would have a fast track for any civil lawsuit against the president if that president “failed to meet the requirement of Article II, section 3, clause 17, of the Constitution of the United States to take care that a law be faithfully executed.”
Once litigated in district court, any appeals would be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republicans cited the Obama administration’s delays on several deadlines of the Affordable Care Act that the president signed into law in March 2010. Obama has drawn criticism for his June 2012 decision to allow young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to gain legal status and remain in the United States if they attend school or join the military.
Republicans also have assailed Obama for tougher action on the environment.
“The president’s dangerous search for expanded powers appears to be endless,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sponsor of the bill, read a series of statements by Obama when he was an Illinois senator in which he warned of the encroachment of the executive on the powers of the other branches of government.
In urging support, Gowdy said Congress is “not held in high public esteem right now. Maybe we would be respected more if we respected ourselves.”
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, highlighted past unilateral actions by chief executives, including President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declaring the freedom of all slaves and President Harry S. Truman’s integration of the military.
The Obama administration said in a statement that the bill exceeds constitutional limits, and Congress cannot assign additional powers to itself.
More specifically, spokesman Jay Carney criticized Republicans for stalling on immigration overhaul but finding time for the bill on lawsuits that he said would impede the president in limiting deportation of young immigrants.
It’s “pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the deferred action for childhood arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as DREAMers,” Carney said.
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