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By Annika McGinnis
WASHINGTON, July 24 Republicans in the U.S.
House of Representatives on Thursday took another step toward
authorizing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, claiming
he has overstepped his executive powers.
In a partisan vote of 7-4, the House Rules Committee
approved the legislation, likely setting it up for consideration
by the full House next week. The Republican initiative already
has spawned a bitter debate with Democrats less than four months
before elections that will determine the political control of
Congress next year.
Any lawsuit likely would take years to wind through federal
House Speaker John Boehner wrote in June that Obama's use of
executive orders, including raising the minimum wage for federal
contractors and stopping deportations of undocumented youths
brought to the United States by their parents, risked giving him
a "king-like authority."
But Boehner has tamped down calls from some fellow
Republicans who have called for impeachment proceedings against
Obama, which would be a first step toward removing him from
House Republicans in 1998 spearheaded a successful drive to
impeach then-President Bill Clinton, also a Democrat. Clinton
served out his second term, however, after the Senate acquitted
Clinton of both articles of impeachment involving perjury and
obstruction of justice related to a sexual affair he had with
intern Monica Lewinsky.
The episode damaged Republicans politically.
The lawsuit, if approved by the full House, would focus on
Obama's implementation of his landmark healthcare law, known as
"Obamacare," which Republicans have been trying to repeal for
years. Republicans claim Obama went beyond his legal authority
and bypassed Congress when he delayed some healthcare coverage
mandates and granted various waivers.
But Democrats have decried the suit as an election-year
political stunt and a waste of time and money.
"It's shameful. It's embarrassing and even the amount of
time we're spending up here in this office talking about it adds
to the fact that the American people are disgusted and have no
faith in us to do anything," said Representative Louise
Slaughter of New York, the senior Democrat on the Rules
In a tense hearing that deteriorated into name-calling and
bickering over unrelated matters, from the administration's
response to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in
Benghazi, Libya, to a highway funding bill, Democrats demanded
to know how much the suit would cost taxpayers and which
congressional accounts would see cuts to pay for it.
Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas,
said funds would come from the House's Office of General
Counsel. He said he anticipated the suit would not require any
extra appropriations, but if needed, the Appropriations
Committee could consider transferring money from other House
Last week, constitutional law experts debated the lawsuit's
legal legitimacy, with some calling it a "tailored and
appropriate response" to Obama's actions, while others said the
president has some leeway in implementing laws.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan and Jeffrey Benkoe)