The Wall Street Journal editorial board, long known for its unwavering defense of the president’s authority to spy on Americans without warrants and “the Bush Administration's alleged ‘torture’ policies,” can’t abide by Barack Obama’s unilateral revisions to his law that gives people healthcare. In an editorial published this morning, the Journal argued that President Obama is guilty of “flagrant contempt for regular political order” by taking executive action to make changes to the Affordable Care Act and limit deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants. “When the executive suspends or rewrites laws across health care, drugs, immigration and so much else, elected legislators are stripped of their constitutional role,” they observe.
But the Journal is not without hope. Their sudden concern for the concentration of power in the executive branch has a new champion: Speaker John Boehner. News that Boehner intends to introduce legislation to initiate a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s executive overreach has left the Journal editorial board impressed with the Speaker’s solemn commitment to responsible government:
The Beltway press is portraying Mr. Boehner as merely serving carrion to the tea party vultures, and no doubt he hopes in part to sate the political appetites of the backbench. But we doubt he'd wager the House's reputation, and his own, on a novelty lawsuit that the courts wouldn't hesitate to toss as frivolous. From what we know of the Speaker's deliberations, he's been persuaded on the merits.
Who would have guessed that John Boehner and the House of Representatives had reputations to wager? Boehner’s personal approval rating sits at 31 percent. Congress’ approval rating is a muscular 16 percent. There’s not a whole lot either could do to make the public hate them more.
And I’m not entirely sure where the Journal got the idea that Boehner wouldn’t put himself in the positon of looking like an idiot. That’s been the story of the Boehner speakership. The failure of his “Plan B” tax bill on the eve of the fiscal cliff? An embarrassment for Boehner. The collapse of his debt proposal during last autumn’s budget crisis? An embarrassment for Boehner. The defeat of the farm bill last summer? An embarrassment for Boehner. Even his reelection as speaker was a humiliating affair, marked by rebellions and protest votes. House Republicans shut down the government on his watch. The guy is a walking own-goal.
And the lawsuit itself is absolutely frivolous. It’s based on an exotic legal theory that likely won’t survive scrutiny. Even if it does somehow survive, it will take years to work through the courts, at which point Obama will be collecting huge paychecks on the lecture circuit.
That brings us to the obvious conclusion that Boehner’s suit is quite obviously about riling up angry, impeachment-happy conservatives and has nothing to do with good government. If Boehner actually cared about the legislature’s loss of power to the executive branch, he might consider exercising the power granted to the legislature by the Constitution – namely, legislating. But, as we’ve seen, most of Boehner’s attempts to legislate end up with him stepping on rakes.
The Wall Street Journal’s enthusiasm for the suit is similarly political. They’re not concerned about concentrated executive authority; they’re upset that it’s Obama exercising that authority and using it to do things they disagree with, like making his healthcare law work and not deporting immigrants.