Old news: Nevada Representatives Amodei (R-NV2) and Heck (R-NV3) voted in favor of “Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States,” otherwise known as H.Res 676. [HouseClerk] What hasn’t been as widely available is the text of the resolution:
“Resolved, That the Speaker is authorized to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction to seek any appropriate relief regarding the failure of the President, the head of any department or agency, or any other officer or employee of the executive branch, to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, title I or subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision, or any other related provision of law, including a failure to implement any such provision.” [HouseRules] (emphasis and links added)
Notice the weasel words? “…the Speaker is authorized to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House…. Do we see the magic legislative words “may” or “shall,” or even the less common “will?”
No, all we see in the actual resolution is the authorization for the initiation or intervention into a civil case against the President or a member of the Executive Branch. In short, the House said — in a party line vote — that the Speaker can (but maybe not necessarily will, or may, but might not) bring a civil suit against the President. This is a far cry from the “House Votes To Sue” headlines which offer red meat to the Obamaphobe Republican Base. There are substantive bills, there are ceremonial bills — but this one is neither fish nor fowl, in case there is no standing or if the political winds don’t fill the sails, the Speaker has a back door exit. Nothing in the bill really requires him to act, it only says he is authorized to do so.
Viewed from this perspective, H. Res. 676 has no more “substance” than the 40+ odd efforts of the Republican controlled House of Representatives to repeal all or portions of the Affordable Care Act. Even the usually adept publication, The Hill, presented the authorization of a law suit as an alternative to impeachment, not as a possible alternative to …. anything?
“The lawsuit focuses on Obama’s decision to delay the healthcare law’s employer mandate, which requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide insurance coverage. The mandate was slated to originally take effect this year, but it has been pushed back for gradual implementation in 2015 and 2016.” [TheHill]
So, why the delay in the first place? Business interests questioned whether the rules regarding the application of ACA provisions could be promulgated and reviewed in the time available one, for example, being the restaurant owners:
“The National Restaurant Association, whose nearly 500,000 members were concerned because many industry employees work odd schedules and do not receive benefits, lauded the phase-in. “It’s welcome news, as is anything that helps employers figure this out and gives them time to comply,” said the group’s director of labor and workforce policy, Michelle Neblett, who noted that many members do not yet have systems in place to keep track of worker hours.” [WaPo]
The Restaurant owners weren’t the only business groups seeking more time, as this post from the Treasury Department indicates when describing some of the devilish details:
“The ACA includes information reporting (under section 6055) by insurers, self-insuring employers, and other parties that provide health coverage. It also requires information reporting (under section 6056) by certain employers with respect to the health coverage offered to their full-time employees. We expect to publish proposed rules implementing these provisions this summer, after a dialogue with stakeholders – including those responsible employers that already provide their full-time work force with coverage far exceeding the minimum employer shared responsibility requirements – in an effort to minimize the reporting, consistent with effective implementation of the law.” (7/2/13)
In sum, the reporting requirements and implementation were discussed with stakeholders (both labor and management) prior to the decision to delay the matter until the provisions could be ironed out over the ‘shared responsibility requirements.’ The temerity of the House Republicans to authorize a civil case for the failure to implement the provisions of the ACA which they’d tried to repeal (without replacing) during the 112th and 113th Congresses has been duly noted. What’s been less publicized is the fact that the delay came at the request of business owners — the very group the GOP purports to enthusiastically support.
Since H.Res 676 doesn’t actually DO anything, and because it’s beyond ironic to have the House GOP file suit to require the instant implementation of a law it tried every which way to repeal, there’s perhaps another rationale for this risible legislative exercise. Publicity.
The Two’fer Talking Point
Opposition to the Affordable Care Act isn’t what it used to be. In the Golden Age of Astroturfed Koch Brothers sponsored, Freedom Works sustained, and Tea Party sycophancy, elections were carried based on Obamacare Bashing. No more. [LATimes] The generic “Obamacare” may not be popular, but the provisions are. People like the parts wherein health care cost increases are contained and the provisions on pre-existing conditions. [Pew] As could easily be predicted, opposition to the law centers on the “Too Much Government” ideology.
So, if talking about allowing insurance corporations to abuse rescission clauses isn’t popular, and no one’s thrilled to go back to the days when being a woman was a “pre-existing condition,” what can the GOP do for an encore to 2010? Try The Lawless President.
Google “lawless president” and all the usual voices come forth. Bachmann, George Will, The American Spectator, The National Review, Breitbart, Jeff. Sessions, Fox News, and that’s just from the first page of results.
Back in May, 2014, the New Republic was predicting the latest theme from the GOP for the mid-term elections would be the “lawless President.” ” This tactical change makes sense. Obamacare is no longer struggling and Democrats are putting Republican congressional candidates in difficult positions over the Medicaid expansion. Criticism of Obama’s lawlessness will rile up the base and bolster turnout.”
And there we have it.
So, Representatives Amodei (R-NV2) and Heck (R-NV3) added their names to the roster of theme promoters for the benefit of the base in the 2014 mid-term elections. Not so the Affordable Care Act will be quickly implemented, but because they can say they are against the “lawless President.” And then talk about the “lawless President,” and keep talking about the ‘lawless President,” until the narrative sticks with copious assistance from Fox News. Again, it is sound and fury signifying nothing… except for riling up the Republican base. It’s a two’fer, Republican politicians get to say Obamacare + Lawless in the same sentence. What could possibly go wrong?