Friday, July 11, 2014

The Obama Lawsuit

“Middle class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me,” Obama said during a speech urging Congress to reach agreement on funding for highway and transit programs.
So Sue Me

Speaker Boehner is going to do exactly that: He's going to sue Obama. The specifics, now revealed, are this: Boehner is going to take Obama to court over Obama's decision to delay the Employer-Mandate in ObamaCare for businesses.

Obamacare requires that companies (of a specific size, anyway) provide coverage for their employees or pay a penalty (kind of the same way that individuals must buy insurance or pay a penalty). Obama unilaterally delayed that requirement until 2015--after the midterms. This was (as The Omnivore understands it) explicitly in contradiction of the passed law and was done without the consent of Congress.

Let's note that the mandate was pretty unpopular with employers.

The mandate was very unpopular with Republicans.

So Why Are They Suing Obama?

The irony of Boehner suing Obama to enforce a law that the Republicans never wanted passed in the first place is lost on exactly no one. The arguments for it are as follows:
  1. There should be a penalty for a president behaving lawlessly. The delay was lawless--it's probably not enough to impeach him over--but it's very bad and there should be consequences.
  2. If the law hurt people it would be more unpopular and therefore more easily repealed. Delaying the pain until after midterms is uncool and political.
  3. The base wants Obama impeached but the GOPe thinks that's a terrible political move because (a) the votes in the Senate don't exist to find Obama guilty and (b) it really, really backfired when they tried it on Clinton. Suing Obama is kinda like Impeachment. It's throwing the base a bone.

Will It Work?

What does that actually mean? Will what work? 

#1 Will The Lawsuit Curb a Lawless President?
Probably not: The suit seems to lack the teeth to have much of an impact on a never-again elected Obama. It's weaksauce compared to impeachment and everyone, including noted RINO Erick Erickson, knows it. It might actually embolden future presidents who will realize that they can act, get sued, retract, and ... so what?

#2 Make Obamacare Unpopular
Probably Not: If this had been done early on, perhaps yes. As it stands, the 2015 date may well come to pass before the lawsuit is resolved. In any event, it'll be close. The disposition of the ACA at this point really comes down to the 2016 presidential elections (if even that) so it's unclear if this is too little, too late.

#3 Satisfy The Base
Probably Not: If it's not satisfying Erick Erickson, it probably won't satisfy the base overmuch. Impeachment is a serious rebuke--even if the Senate did not convict (and you need 67 votes there--even a 2010 Wave election that gives the majority in the Senate back to the GOP probably won't close that gap). That said, at least it's something.

There's a somewhat more interesting argument here though: is it legal to sue? Andrew Prokop Voxsplains that, historically, in order to sue the president you have to be able to demonstrate harm to you. That is, in order for the court to hear the case from Boehner (or 'The House'), a judge would have to decide that Boehner himself was injured by the president's decision. That's a high bar to clear--how'd it hurt him?

How'd it hurt anyone (is not paying a government fine being hurt?). The way around it is a carefully crafted set of arguments (in that link) which boil down to the idea that Congress ought to have the right to expect the President to obey the law. Vox holds that this is iffy--it doesn't seem especially iffy to The Omnivore ... The Omnivore thinks they have a case.

But The Omnivore also thinks they shouldn't have to even go that far. Boehner already has a pretty clear-cut case as far as The Omnivore sees it ...

The Omnivore's Case For Suit Against POTUS
Suppose someone signed a contract with you that was going to make you the proverbial shit-ton of money and then backed out? You'd sue, right? Well those laws are a contract with America, aren't they? And when Obama backed out he cost the GOP a ton of money ... didn't he? 


Well, Obamacare is a big fund-raiser for them and the more unpopular it is, the more money it rakes in. That unpopularity has a window though: the longer it lasts, the less it's worth as the zeal to kill it dims. We're seeing that happen now:
What was more surprising is that people who got the new coverage were generally happy with the product. Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.
This is a disaster for Republican fund-raising. It appears that, adding insult to injury, the blue-states where the most money was spent on anti-Obamacare ads were the places where enrollment was higher:
In a state-by-state look at spending on ads attacking the Affordable Care Act, Brookings found that increased ad spending per capita was tied to declining enrollment in red states but linked with increasing enrollment in blue states.
Cruz alone made millions off it ... Instead of trying to reinstate the mandate, which Republicans don't want anyway, Boehner should sue for like a billion dollars of 2016 fund-raising and make the Obamas pay it personally!

The Problem: Monetized Politics

Being more serious, the real problem here isn't exactly the imperial presidency or, even at this point, repealing Obamacare. The Omnivore isn't even sure it's about scoring points in the upcoming elections. It's about getting what you paid for--if you are a GOP voter--especially a lower information one.

Wait, wait--hear me out: wanting to repeal Obamacare is perfectly fine. Wanting a Benghazi investigation is perfectly fine (there have been several). This is all good stuff--but if you are a person who donates in outrage (watching Fox News will do that to you) and expects value for your money then you will not be happy until you get what you paid for.

Unfortunately, 'what you paid for' is probably snake-oil if you are watching Fox News and only half-way paying attention--or following smaller more credulous blogs / conspiracy emails that show up in your inbox. Political marketing machines run on liquid outrage--both of them--but the Republicans have recently gone a step further down the rabbit hole by essentially 'making promises' that they can't keep. These promises are things like:
  • Obama is behaving in a way that is so clearly unconstitutional that any sane congress would instantly impeach him--he might be removed by the military at any time anyway. He is, literally, behaving as a tyrannical dictator.
  • Benghazi has been proven a conspiratorial cover-up where Hillary issued a stand-down order that resulted in the death of Americans in order to conceal illegal arms transfers to Al Qaeda in Syria.
  • Obama has been caught orchestrating illegal activities such as the IRS investigations of the Tea Party and running guns to Mexico.
The expectations around Republican action have been set extraordinarily high and people have paid to see those expectations met. Things like the ridiculous list of Obama's Illegal Actions which evaporate upon research are pervasive enough that it's hard to blame people for (a) giving money and then (b) feeling cheated when nothing comes of it.

From the John Boenher perspective there's nowhere to go but forward: he can't admit that while Obama may be expanding presidential power in ways that are probably illegal, he doesn't come near the level of dictatorial-tyrant. He can't even admit that the military testified there was no stand-down order ... the news can report it--but Boehner can't declare the matter (on that even) settled. He has to keep riding the tiger if that doesn't mean potentially suicidal impeachment it, at least, means an angry lawsuit that might satisfy someone (specifically, his home-state voters who, hopefully, won't 'Cantor' him).


  1. 騎虎難下

    -- Ω

    1. MEOWW!!
      -The Omnivore

    2. Well done, Ommie. You'd have to scale up GrumpyCat by a couple orders of magnitude of course, but... yeah.

      There just isn't enough kibble to save Carrot Man.

      -- Ω

    3. Interesting note: "Progressive" fundraising emails are calling this tactic a dress rehearsal for an anticipated impeachment proceeding. Testing the waters, so to speak, to see how many seats they'd need to pick up in the upcoming midterm elections to go forward with what they really want.

      Any complaints about focusing on opposition for opposition's sake and ignoring the actual task at hand (that is, governance) are falling on deaf ears, at this point. I see this path as Plan B for last winter's failed take-the-economy-hostage stunt.

      To me, the bitterest irony is that Obama unquestionably has done a lot of bad stuff - whether or not it rises to the level of 'high crimes and misdemeanors I can't judge - and does deserve censure (maybe even impeachment), but not for any of the reasons given by the Republicans. Most of those "real" reasons are things which they actually like!

      "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony..."

      -- Ω

  2. Curious. If repeal of the ACA is "OK", I'd love to hear The O's opinion on what (if anything) should replace it.

    1. Personal responsibility, grit, and a can-do attitude, son.

      -The Omnivore

    2. Heh. Those plus $2.00 get you a cup of (mediocre) coffee.

      Oh wait, those have been the standard GOP talking points, trotted out whenever anyone else has asked for anything, over the last thirty years or so. So financial criminals and defense contractors get a blank check, while the "less fortunate" (most of the rest of us) get those patronizing bromides about bootstrapping and personal responsibility, which Google Translate renders in standard English as "cram it".

      And it hardly matters if you were being sarcastic - because they aren't! That's what happens when you're cruel on the regular - after a while it becomes second nature and there's no one left who will tell you that you're a monster and/or a buffoon. And that your hairpiece frightens people.

      ObQuote: "Oh, it's true. It's damn true!"
      -- Kurt Angle

      -- Ω

    3. And, because too much is never enough:

      "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron."

      - H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

      -- Ω

    4. :: GASP ::


      -The Omnivore

  3. Sure did. But it happened 13½ years ago, and arguably even earlier.

    So there!

    -- Ω