Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

After Fights Over Cuckoo Clocks and Billable Hours, Rules Panel Backs Resolution Allowing House to Sue Obama

Slaughter and McGovern saw their attempts to amend the resolution rebuffed in the Rules Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Slaughter and McGovern saw their attempts to amend the resolution rebuffed in the Rules Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Rules Committee, already known for not being a bastion of cross-party comity, devolved into significant partisan rancor Thursday morning over a resolution to allow the House to sue the president of the United States.

The panel advanced consideration of the measure in a party-line, 7-4, vote after nearly two hours of debate, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other in turn of playing political games.

Democrats said Republicans’ pursuit of a lawsuit against Barack Obama for making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act after the law was passed, with Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts accusing his GOP counterparts of acting out of “hatred” for the president and at one point calling the Republicans “cuckoo clocks.”

“I’ll come up with a better word if I can think of one,” McGovern replied after Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, asked him to refrain from such name-calling of his colleagues.

Republicans said Democrats were hypocritical for offering several amendments that could only be called political, such as one that would use funds from the special investigative committee on the Benghazi attacks to pay legal fees associated with the lawsuit at hand, and another that would allow a House floor vote on immigration legislation.

“It’s the definition of a political stunt,” said Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., who was recently named the interim chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Republicans were from the start on guard against Democratic attempts to amend the resolution, even those purportedly aimed to increase transparency and avoid conflicts of interest.

The GOP members rejected an amendment from Rules ranking member Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., that would have required the House General Counsel every week to report on how much money had been spent on the lawsuit. Republicans said it was unnecessary and overly burdensome given that the committee had just adopted, by voice vote, an amendment from Florida Republican Rich Nugent requiring the public release on a quarterly basis of funds spent by the general counsel.

Sessions suggested the mandate might not even be feasible: “I’d be shocked if [attorneys] billed on a weekly basis,” he said of the lawyers with whom the House would contract to execute the lawsuit against Obama.

“They bill by the hour!” retorted Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., a former judge.

“The general counsel is going to know every week … since it’s coming out of their budget,” Slaughter added.

“I remember during the entire healthcare roll-out, the president said he would report to Congress every month on how many people were getting health care,” McGovern piled on, “and you objected and said they should report every week.”

Slaughter was also rebuffed by Republicans on an amendment to bar the House from entering into contracts with law and consulting firms for the purpose of the lawsuit that also lobby Congress; Republicans said there were already prohibitions against signing contracts with such conflicts of interests. Republicans also fought back a Slaughter amendment that would have prevented a contract with a firm that had any financial stake in the implementation of the health care law.

“I’m really disappointed,” Slaughter sighed at one point following the rejection of one of her amendments. “That really says a lot about what we’re doing here.”

The House is expected to consider the resolution on the floor next week as one of its last acts before the August recess.

  • sad american

    how do we get rid of all these clowns….there not interested in serving the american people…just them selves….their wages—fringe benefits…wealthy donors…control of party power……there moto is MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

    • Layla

      You vote them all out in November. But to do that, you must show up and VOTE.

  • Darrell

    Look at our total society in the USA….the citizens of the USA pretty much act just like these people in Congress. Everyone wants THEIR OWN WAY and if they don’t they will sue, argue, fight, etc……..Congress is a reflection of the electorate and Congress will represent their electorate. Guess who always sends in emails, mail and other communication methods to Congressmen….mostly the people who have very strong feelings on a subject…….but the majority of the people won’t take the time to communicate with Congressmen…why….because they do not feel it will do any good. Well we both know if you don’t communicate to Congressmen they will base their judgements on the far right/left people who communicate with them. EVERYONE MUST COMMUNICATE THEIR THOUGHTS TO THEIR CONGRESSMAN REGARDLESS OF EACH ONES OPINION. It will make a difference. In the mid 1980’s I had a Member of the House of Representatives who served as chairman of a very influential committee call me 3 times from D.C. basis a letter I had sent to the congressman. HE TOLD ME ON ONE PHONE CALL THAT CONGRESS CONSIDERS EACH LETTER RECEIVED ””REPRESENTED”” THE OPINIONS OF 100,000 CITIZENS!

    • Layla

      Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-FL, calls his constituents from Washington. There are still some good men, women in Congress. Not many, but a few and they tend to be youngsters.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    There are STILL three million unemployed workers, with families , who are STILL without an unemployment extension of benefits, since last December. While the republican senate vigorously fought on behalf of the Koch Brother’s oil pipeline bill to be passed, they totally ignored and delayed the passing of the unemployment extension bill , that would have greatly helped millions of these families living in financial ruin and poverty. Our government recently passed an foreign aid bill for the Ukraine, worth Billions of tax payer dollars. There is also a bill to pass a 2.6 BILLION dollar bill for the thousands of migrant children pouring into our country on a daily basis, customs or our defense. Why is it so difficult for our government to help our own citizens right here in our own country? Why is there no money to help these unemployed families who lost their benefits seven months ago, and are still struggling to survive ever since? How can the republicans refuse to help Americans, but give our money away like it belongs to themselves? These Americans are in desperate need, and can not be ignored anymore. Even our own veterans matter little to our government. Look at their healthcare they have received. We treat illegal migrants better than our veterans.

    • Layla

      When you finally figure out why all this is happening, you’ll stop voting Democrat.

      • cynthia

        you mean republican their the new nazis

  • Henry Williams

    Although intellectuals and journalists tend to most influence people today, their indirect influence is not well recognized or understood.

  • Cy Nout

    Although we benefit from others’ efforts, civilization’s advance is not the result of any sort of directed collective effort by humanity.

  • cynthia

    I know this is two months late but I was told to refile for benefits aug 23 to start new a new nclaim don’t waste our time called to see if check was issued,you have been given credit for such -n-such week I don’t want credit I need a check I have no elec in my house as of9/7/2014. If this is the American dream I would hate to see the nightmare,I forgot the American dream is only for the ones from other countries who come over here work tax free open shop and don’t have to pay taxes. If your a born American you don’t have a snowballs chance in hell boehners wants to sue the president,whos going to sue him for forcing us into being homeless

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