WASHINGTON – Republicans in the U.S. House took new aim last week at President Barack Obama, passing bills that challenge actions they say snub the will of Congress.
Republicans charge Obama has willfully circumvented Congress with a series of decisions to delay parts of the Affordable Care Act. They also say he disregarded the law when he moved in 2011 to suspend deportations of young people brought into the United States illegally as children.
Consequently, lawmakers voted 233-181 along party lines on a bill that would allow Congress to sue the president if it believes he is not carrying out federal law.
"From ObamaCare to welfare and education reform to our nation’s drug enforcement laws and other areas of the law, President Obama has been picking and choosing which laws to enforce," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. "We cannot continue to allow the president to ignore the constitutional limits on executive power."
Defending Obama, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said allowing the president flexibility in enacting new programs "is neither unusual nor a constitutional violation."
Conyers said the bill is "simply yet another attempt to prevent the President of the United States from implementing duly enacted legislative initiatives that (Republicans) oppose"
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock and Rick Crawford, D-Jonesboro, voted for the bill.
A related bill also passed by party-line vote. It directs the Justice Department to report to Congress whenever the administration decides not to enforce a law, as well as justify the decision.
The bill expands a practice where the Justice Department now reports to Congress when the executive branch suspends enforcement of laws it believes are unconstitutional,
"We have in this country a government of laws, not of men," said Rep. Ron DeSantis,, R-Fla. "This transparency will help Congress safeguard its constitutional authority and will allow the American people to evaluate the actions of the executive branch."
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said the bill was "a waste of our time," and the real point was to stymie Obama. Cohen said the Justice Department" would have to review enforcement decisions by hundreds—if not thousands—of individuals"
The bill passed 244-171. Womack, Griffin, Crawford and Cotton voted for it.
Both bills are expected to be ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
House passes "doc fix"
The House voted 238-181 to once again delay a scheduled 24 percent Medicare pay cuts for doctors. But Democrats say the bill will go nowhere in the Senate because it also contains a GOP change to the Affordable Care Act. The legislation would delay for five years the penalty that individuals would pay if they don’t enroll for Obamacare.
Congress each year has passed a so-called "doc fix" bill to set aside a formula devised in the 1990s to control health care costs. Lawmakers fear that steep cuts in what Medicare pays doctors will cause more health professionals to drop out of the federal program and stop seeing Medicare patients.
"Doc fix" bills usually are bipartisan but this year Republicans added the Obamacare delay and it drew a White House veto threat. Democrats charged it was the 51st vote this year to repeal or delay the health law.
Womack, Griffin, Cotton and Crawford voted for the bill.