News came yesterday that John Boehner, in keeping with his disastrous record of being a failed Speaker of the House, plans to sue the President over the Affordable Care Act - specifically over the president's decision to delay the enforcement of the employer mandate to give mid-and-large businesses to comply. Small businesses are already exempt.
This is all kinds of stupid. First, it's dumb policy. There is no precedence for one chamber of Congress suing to stop a president's interpretation and implementation of the laws - courts, as the third co-equal branch of government, are hard pressed to get involved in a fist-fight between the other two. There is also no precedence for this because the Constitution provides Congress with its own remedies for what it believes is abuse of power: the power of the purse, and the power to impeach.
Republicans tried to abuse their power of the purse - over the same issue nonetheless - by shutting down the government last year. That was a political disaster they are not willing to repeat. That leaves impeachment, another non-starter that would represent even worse partisan abuse by the Republicans.
So John Boehner invented - straight out of his orange hat - a new escape: a lawsuit. The lawsuit is Boehner's mind-numbingly dumb attempt to thread the needle between his base's demand for impeachment of this president - for, you know, being president - and Washington GOP's memory of how badly a political impeachment attempt will backfire.
The president is well aware of this fact.
The president isn't the first African American president elected twice in landslide elections for having no political acumen, either. But among all of Barack Obama's political skills his detractors fear, his ability to counterpunch is the most devastating. His counterpunch to Boehner, delivered in Republican heartland of Texas, was no exception: the President was brutal in defining and targeting the problem: Republicans won't do their job, and they won't let him do his.
President Obama knows that John Boehner is using the lawsuit as a proxy for impeachment - something he knows he cannot get away with - and President Obama is going to make sure everyone knows it.
Too bad for Boehner, he and the president aren't the only ones aware of the bad policy and terrible optics of the lawsuit. Conservatives are none-too-happy. One faction wants Boehner to go all in and impeach the president. Erick Erickson of RedState and CNN is in that corner, representing the party's base for whom the hatred of the president is primary. Erickson's literal message: the lawsuit is indicative of a castrated Speaker.
In his own very sick kind of way, Erickson's got a point. If Boehner truly believes - as he says - that President Obama has skirted the law and compromised the Constitutional balance of power so seriously that he must be stopped at any price, it is Boehner's job, as Speaker of the House, to damn the political consequences and draw up articles of impeachment. If he does not have the courage of his dastardly and crooked conviction, then he should at least not be wasting taxpayer money on a political stunt.
Although convoluted, Erickson's piece speaks to the real fear of the Republican base: by filing a lawsuit, Boehner is essentially ruling out impeachment, which is what they really want. Seen that way, the lawsuit paradoxically represents Speaker Boehner's capitulation to the President - not his willingness to "stand up to" Obama - in the eyes of the Republican base.
Speaker Boehner will never learn that you cannot appease crazy.
While Erickson represents the dumb, blunt impeachment-hammer approach of the GOP's Tea Party base, conservative intellectuals are no happier with Boehner's lawsuit, a political move they fear - correctly - President Obama and Democrats will use to turn out the vote.
The Hoover Institution's David Davenport warns that Boehner's move has the capacity to blow up worse than Ted Cruz's government shutdown:
Davenport further notes that a frivolous lawsuit like this will put GOP hypocrites for trying to use the courts to resolve their political differences with the president.
What others haven't noted, though, is the final point in this charade: by suing the president for delaying a mandate that applies to business, Boehner will ruin the party's image in the eyes of actual small and medium-sized business owners who, despite Democratic presidents and policies being better for them, consistently lean GOP when it comes to voting.
As I have noted before, Boehner is too deep in this now. He can't turn back. One reason conservatives are so mad at him is that he can't turn back. He's stuck between the president's pokes of "so sue me" and the nakedness of his political motives that even conservatives are calling him out on. As the highest ranking Republican in the country, he has now also stuck the Republican party with the reputation of sue-happy do-nothings, like they needed any help.