Hello to the ~70 of you who read this thing (get your friends reading, willya?)
I was recently published in xoJane and have more writing in the works. I’ll be re-posting excerpts here as I’m published but by all means please keep an eye on their site for new work (especially since I’m going to let them have it for at least a week before re-publishing it here).
HOW IT WORKS: WHAT IT MEANS WHEN CONGRESS SUES THE PRESIDENT, EXPLAINED! SORT OF!
There has never been an instance of a legislative body suing a sitting President. So, the answer to the question, “How does it work for Congress to sue the President?” has been a resounding, “We have no idea.” What do you think when you hear “sue the President?” Maybe it’s two thumbs up or two thumbs down, but it could just as easily be two shoulders up, shrugged in utter confusion over what it actually would mean to sue a President. Since I’ve seen lots of shrugged shoulders on this topic, I thought I’d try to help out.
On July 30th, just before their August break, the U.S. House of Representatives voted and approved a resolution (H.Res 676
) to authorize suing the President. The vote was 225-201. No Democrat voted for it. Five Republicans voted against
, not because they were with Democrats, but because they don’t think a lawsuit goes far enough (they want to impeach).
With this vote, House Republicans allege that the President has used executive orders to subvert “faithful execution” of the law. In practical terms, they think he’s “gone too far” and have tossed around such specious words as “tyranny,” “fascist,” and “dictator.”
Intra-governmental lawsuits aren’t unprecedented. Individuals in Congress have sued Presidents. For example, Dennis Kucinich and nine other representatives sued President Obama
with regard to military action in Libya that had not been approved by Congress. In the recent case against the Defense of Marriage Act, the House sent a special panel
(called, of all things, a BLAG – Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group) to represent the entire House’s interest in the case. Well, the House’s pro-DOMA interests. (Since Obama had ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA, Rep. Boehner insisted the pro-DOMA voice be represented. Ironically enough, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the involvement of Boehner’s BLAG had made the Court feel more confident in ruling DOMA unconstitutional as there was no evidence that pro-DOMA voices had been excluded from the arguments. But I digress …)