Rep. Lipinski Issues Statement on Presidential Powers Lawsuit Resolution
Statement from Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3):
“As I taught my students in American Government 101, Article One of the Constitution established Congress as the legislative branch and Article Two established the president as chief executive. I have always believed that Congress is the subject of Article One because the founders intended the legislature, the branch closest to the people, to be the first branch within a system of checks and balances.
“But over the history of our nation, presidents have assumed more power at the expense of Congress. Recently, Democrats criticized the plethora of “signing statements” that President Bush attached to legislation that he signed into law; these statements said he would not execute parts of the law. President Bush also engaged in other questionable actions in regard to executing laws. President Obama has continued to do some of this in his administration, particularly with respect to enforcing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Neither party is exempt. But the bottom line is that this is not good for Congress and, more importantly, is not good for our country.
“Today the House passed a resolution to allow Speaker Boehner to initiate lawsuits against President Obama and others in his Administration. While the resolution is broadly written, the main thrust is to challenge the President on his authority to delay the deadline for the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I did not vote in favor of the ACA but I have not supported Republican efforts to repeal this law, understanding that these were motivated mostly by politics since it was clear that a repeal bill was not going to become law. But I have been one of the most active members of Congress in working to make changes to the ACA, having authored, cosponsored, and/or voted for more than two dozen bills or amendments that would fix flaws in the law.
“I believe the intent of the House Republicans’ lawsuit resolution is similar to the repeal effort on the ACA – it is political, and isn’t likely to have any substantive effect. Therefore I did not support the resolution. It isn’t because I fundamentally disagree with the general concern regarding presidential power. But most scholars agree that the lawsuit won’t be effective, and it will more likely be a political podium rather than a lever for change. The judicial branch makes great effort to stay out of disputes between the legislative and executive branches. Based on case law, the courts are likely to say that the House does not have standing to sue the President or members of his Administration because the House has not suffered from “vote nullification” through these actions of the Executive Branch. Courts will suggest Congress could pass laws in response to these actions, and thus has a means of self-resolution. And with these steep odds against the lawsuit, why spend a few million taxpayer dollars on lawyers?
“Congress needs to act to reclaim its rightful authority and to rebalance the powers between the branches of government. Part of the solution is Congress being more active in conducting real oversight, and pursuing and enacting bipartisan approaches to many of the looming challenges we face today. We, the Congress, have the power of the purse, and can affect change in the government by stipulating what taxpayer dollars can and cannot be spent on. But with the highly partisan and marginally effective role Congress has taken of late, we effectively cede to the president control of much of the government. Instead, Congress must once again become protective of itself as an institution vis-à-vis the president, rather than just serving partisan interests when reacting to the actions of the president. This will require members of Congress to prioritize loyalty to the American people and the institution of Congress. This would be the best way to maintain the checks and balances that our nation’s founders so wisely wrote into our Constitution.”
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