The GOP now thinks it's OK to sue someone -- if that someone is Barack Obama

Boehner and the GOP sneer at "frivolous" lawsuits from women and LGBTQ people, then file the silliest one ever

Published July 11, 2014 4:18PM (EDT)

John Boehner                                    (Reuters/Larry Downing)
John Boehner (Reuters/Larry Downing)

John Boehner is not a fan of "frivolous" lawsuits. The Republican party -- as a whole -- is seriously concerned with unnecessary litigation. It's the reason they're obsessed with tort reform. It's the reason the House Speaker said he wouldn't let the Employment Non-Discrimination Act come to a vote. And the reason Paul Ryan refused to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. "Lilly Ledbetter was not an equal pay law. It was about opening up the lawsuits and statute of limitations," he said at the time. It seems the GOP believes that suing people is always a very, very bad thing, especially if you're suing your boss who has been paying you less than your male colleagues or decided to fire you because you are gay. But apparently now it's OK to sue someone -- as long as that someone is President Obama.

This week, Boehner unveiled his plan to sue Obama for doing things even though the GOP wanted him to not do any of the things. According to a Thursday statement, the lawsuit will focus on changes to the Affordable Care Act that Boehner argues should have been left to Congress, but who cares what the statement says because this is a symbolic lawsuit that will likely be summarily rejected by the courts. Mostly, the entire enterprise is a collective Republican pout about Obama's recent spate of executive actions in the face of Republican deadlock. As others have pointed out, Obama has used his executive authority in basically the same way that most other presidents have. Teddy Roosevelt racked up more than 1,000. Ronald Reagan had 381, George W. Bush totaled 291. Obama is currently at 182.

The lawsuit is the very definition of frivolous for another reason. Because -- unlike the women and LGBTQ workers who continue to be exploited by people in positions of power -- Congress actually has other courses of action. They have the authority to create new laws to circumvent executive action, cut off funding for the enforcement of laws they don't like or just go ahead and impeach the president, which is now Sarah Palin's personal crusade. (Considering some of the GOP's heated rhetoric about Obama's "imperial presidency," I am actually surprised this has not happened 4 million times already.)

But look at the language Boehner has used to defend the use of taxpayer dollars in the service of more performative obstructionism, and it becomes pretty clear that the GOP doesn't give a shit about perceived overreach from those in power or the law of the land -- except when they are personally feeling mad about it.

“The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws -- at times even boasting about it,” Boehner announced in his statement on the lawsuit. “He has said that if Congress won’t make the laws he wants, he’ll go ahead and make them himself [...] If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well.”

Now imagine that Boehner was a female Hobby Lobby employee. His statement might go a little something like this. "My boss believes that he has the power to make his own laws. He said that if the current healthcare law is not the law he wants, he'll go ahead and ignore the parts that he doesn't like. If my boss can get away with taking an à la carte approach to federal law, other bosses will have the ability to as well."

Or imagine that he is a cafeteria worker at Georgetown University. Or an administrative assistant at Eden Foods. Or a woman who wants to discuss her salary with her colleagues without fear of being penalized. Or a trans man holding down a job in any of the 33 states where you can legally fire someone for his or her gender identity. Or any person who is experiencing actual harm at the hands of someone in power.

These things happen every day, but their demands for reform tend to fall on deaf ears in the GOP. But work around a contingent of Congress that has made it their mission to stop any and all legislation from moving forward? Well, then you'd better lawyer up. Nothing frivolous about it.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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