Thursday 29 January 2015

House to approve Obama legal move

Published 30/07/2014 | 08:24

Democrats say that the move is an attempt by Republicans to ruin Barack Obama's presidency (AP)
Democrats say that the move is an attempt by Republicans to ruin Barack Obama's presidency (AP)

Republicans are ready to muscle legislation through the US House of Representatives authorising a lawsuit against president Barack Obama that accuses him of exceeding his powers in enforcing his health care law.

A party-line vote - and plenty of sharp partisan rhetoric - is expected when the Republican-led chamber considers the measure later today.

Democrats have dismissed the proposal as a legally groundless exercise that could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and other expenses.

They have branded the effort a political charade aimed at stirring up Republican voters for the November congressional elections.

They also say it is an effort by top Republicans to mollify conservatives who want Mr Obama to be impeached - something that House Speaker John Boehner said he has no plans to do.

"This lawsuit is frivolous on steroids," Democratic representative Alcee Hastings said as the House Rules Committee met to clear the way for Wednesday's debate.

"It's absolutely insane what you all are doing."

That has not stopped Democrats from sending fundraising pleas to their own supporters, warning that Republicans are out to impeach Mr Obama and ruin his presidency.

Using that pitch, Democrats raised one million dollars (£589,000) on Monday, according to the head of the House Democratic campaign organisation, Steve Israel.

Republicans said the House's planned legal action is warranted because the president has violated his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.

They say that instead, he has enforced laws as he wants to, dangerously shifting power to the presidency from Congress.

"It is to preserve this country, the separation of powers and the rule of law," said Republican representative Virginia Foxx.

The lawsuit will focus on how Mr Obama has carried out his health care overhaul, a 2010 law that is one of his most prized domestic achievements and that every Republican lawmaker opposed.

Republicans say Mr Obama has illegally changed the law by using executive actions. The White House and Democrats say he has acted legally and within the latitude he is empowered to use as chief executive.

In particular, Republicans have objected that the president has twice delayed the law's so-called employer mandate, which he did under pressure from business groups.

The provision requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines, while businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempted.

The requirement was initially set to take effect this year. Now, companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply, while bigger companies have until next year.

Republicans say there are other examples of Mr Obama exceeding his powers. These include failing to notify Congress in advance when he traded five Taliban members held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and unilaterally preventing the deportation of some children who illegally immigrated to the US.

They also point to Mr Obama's comments in January that 2014 would be a "year of action" to implement his priorities, which he said he would do "with or without Congress" by using his "pen and the phone".

"Such a shift in power should alarm members of both political parties because it threatens the very institution of the Congress," said a Republican-written report accompanying the legislation.

Press Association

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