After more than 50 votes to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act, it should come as no surprise that House Republicans are using President Obama's prized signature legislation to take him to court. By a largely party line vote of 225 to 201, the GOP-led chamber on Wednesday approved a measure authorizing a lawsuit against the president for his use of executive authority.
They are taking the legal action, Republicans say, because Obama delayed the health care law's employer mandate, a move that in their view exceeds the bounds of his constitutional authority. The reality, however, is that they are angry and frustrated by a series of executive orders the president has implemented on a wide range of issues.
House Speaker John Boehner argues that they are simply defending the constitution. Democrats contend that their actual intent is to damage the president, a sentiment with which he tends to agree.
As Congress's lower chamber debated the measure, Obama, speaking at an event in Kansas City, accused GOP lawmakers of being mad at him for doing his job and called on them to stop "hating all the time."
"Let's get some work done together," he said.
In an emotional speech on the House floor, Rep. John Lewis said that to even debate such a measure was both "a shame and a disgrace." He also said that it is emblematic of the way Republicans have treated Obama from the start of his tenure in the White House.
"From the first day in office, the Republicans in this House have never supported this president," Lewis cried. "Every olive branch he extended was broken. But today, Mr. Speaker, they have reached a low, a very low point. This resolution to sue the president just goes a little too far. It is a shame and a disgrace that we are here debating the suing of the president. The American people deserve better."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) believes the lawsuit is unfounded and represents a sad day in Black history.
"If we look at the history of our country, we've had situations where progress for African-Americans has been reversed and I think this is one of those cases," Cummings told BET.com. "You have an African-American president who has had far fewer executive orders than many others yet he's the one they want to sue and I believe eventually impeach."
Rep. G.K. Butterfield agrees with Cummings on both counts.
According to the North Carolina congressman and former judge, the House cannot by itself sue the president. Just as legislation must pass both chambers of Congress before it can be signed into law, both chambers would have to sign onto the suit. He also believes that despite the denials of his colleagues across the aisle, their motives are purely political — and maybe even a bit racist.
"I think it's motivated by their desire to discredit the president and everyone around him. I think it's politically motivated and there's even some evidence that it's racially motivated," Butterfield told BET.com, citing "the fact that they've not done this to any other president and have taken some pretty cheap shots at him in a way that's different from anything we've ever seen before."
Like many Democrats who argued against the lawsuit on the House floor this week, Butterfield lambasted both the time and taxpayer dollars they believe the legal action will waste.
"What are they seeking to achieve?" he wonders, especially given the fact that Obama fully intends to implement the employer mandate. "The same money that is being used challenging [the delay] in court could be used to extend unemployment insurance and to provide a safety net for vulnerable populations. This is a waste of money."
It would not be unreasonable, says Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), who traveled back to Washington with the president on Wednesday but is staying mum about their conversation, if Obama has grown increasingly frustrated over the past six years and is now even infuriated by the "pathological partisanship" that has gripped the capitol.
If he is, he's hiding it well. During his speech on the economy at Kansas City's Uptown Theater, Obama recalled a rare but recent act of bipartisanship when he signed a workforce training bill and took a jovial jab at his Republican foes.
"There were Republicans and Democrats, and everybody was all pleased. They came, we had a bill signing, and they were all in their suits. I said, doesn’t this feel good? We’re doing something. It’s like, useful. Nobody is shouting at each other. It was really nice. I said, let’s do this again. Let’s do it more often," he said. "I know they’re not that happy that I’m president, but that’s OK. Come on. I’ve only got a couple of years left. Come on, let’s get some work done. Then you can be mad at the next president."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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