This week, the United States House of Representatives voted along party lines to sue the President of the United States for the first time in history. The basis for the lawsuit? Teapublicans claim that President Obama overstepped his legal authority by extending the deadline for the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate for another year – yes, that Affordable Care Act – the one congressional Teapublicans have voted to repeal more than 50 times. Never mind that every Chief Executive before President Obama has made such decisions. They were not Kenyan-born, black Muslims who were overwhelmingly elected with the help of African-Americans and Latinos.
In fact, President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than any president since World War II. He has signed 183 to George W. Bush’s 291 and Reagan’s 381.
But in order to truly understand the reason for the lawsuit, we must look at how we got here. In 1974, Democrats called for impeachment of President Richard Nixon over the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. Despite the fact that, by ordering the break-in and the ensuing cover-up, Nixon had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Republicans were spoiling for payback. They spent $70 million of taxpayers’ money on a witch hunt in order to find cause for impeaching President Clinton, ultimately impeaching Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair – a “crime” likely committed by more than half of the presidents that served before him.
The impeachment backfired, making Clinton more popular than ever and further enraging Republicans. Then, when the George W. Bush administration tanked our economy, Republicans were determined to make the newly-elected Obama look worse. It’s as if they were saying, “Sure, our party made a mess of the country, but we’re going to block any attempt to fix it. We’re going to pin this mess on you.”
Even before Obama’s inauguration, Republican leaders announced that they intended to do everything within their power to make his presidency fail and to make him a one-term president. In attempting to do so, Republicans set a new standard for obstruction through filibusters, a refusal to put forward names for nomination to fill court vacancies, and investigations of manufactured “scandals.” Even worse was the deceit of pretending to work with Democrats to craft the Affordable Care Act (a Republican idea) by adding a variety of amendments in committee, then refusing to vote for it. In his second term, matters have only grown worse, with the 113th Congress doing even less than Harry Truman’s “Do Nothing” Congress and many Teapublicans calling for Obama’s impeachment.
All of this begs the question, what next?
I believe that the next time a Republican is elected president, Democrats will have little choice but to return the favor in kind. Indeed, they will have to raise the stakes. They will have to filibuster every bill and appointment. They will have to sue the president and threaten impeachment. Anything less would be seen as weak and cowardly. It won’t be easy. After all, how can you top the 113th Congress for obstruction?
Unless things change, we may as well just close Congress and declare a permanent recess.