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In historic move, Republican House is suing Obama

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  July 11, 2014 at 8:58 AM EST
Speaking from Austin, Texas, Thursday, President Barack Obama has called the GOP effort to sue him a "stunt" and criticized lawmakers for inaction on legislation such as a stalled bill to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

Speaking from Austin, Texas, Thursday, President Barack Obama has called the GOP effort to sue him a “stunt” and criticized lawmakers for inaction on legislation such as a stalled bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • For the first time in history, U.S. House sues the president
  • Obama administration officials blasted by both sides on border request details
  • U.S. offers to help broker Middle East cease-fire, but one thing is clear: the peace process is dead
  • The strength of incumbency

Obama-Boehner relationship hits a new low: Over the years the rapport between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner has been described at times as “topsy-turvy,” “complicated,” and “soured.” But their relationship might have hit a new low Thursday with the president and House speaker publicly rebuking one another at dueling events in Texas and Washington. Boehner called out the president for the situation at the border, telling reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference: “This is a problem of the president’s own making. He’s been president for five and a half years. When is he going to take responsibility for something?” Then there was the release of the text of the lawsuit against the president which named the decision to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate as its target. The suit charges that the president created his own law by waiving the mandate without approval from Congress. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work,” Boehner said in a statement. According to Vox, “[N]either the House [n]or Senate has ever institutionally sued the president for failing to enforce the law.” Speaking in Austin, the president shot back that Republicans are the ones responsible for the dysfunction. “You hear some of them — ‘Sue him,’ ‘impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job?” the president declared. “Rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something,” he added. The strained Obama-Boehner relationship is not a new dynamic, but the hyper-combative tone this week is the clearest signal yet that any hope for compromise this year is gone — and the discord likely could stretch into the final two years of the Obama presidency. And both sides appear to be doubling down.

Unaccompanied children — does the solution fit the problem? Obama administration officials continued to take incoming from both the right and left Thursday during a hearing on Capitol Hill over its $3.7 billion request from Congress to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children at the southern U.S. border. A deal appeared possible with Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Harry Reid, Nev., and Nancy Pelosi, Calif., signaling an openness to allowing changes to a 2008 child-trafficking law that is slowing deportations. That’s something Republicans want. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said he would “fight tooth and nail changes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.” And Democrats, like Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, blasted the administration for not doing enough or sending mixed messages. Durbin wants more money spent on legal representation for children who are mandated under the law to go through the court system, noting that the funding proposed by the administration would only be enough for about 10,000 kids, yet there have been more than 57,000 who have poured into the U.S. If you missed it, NewsHour’s interview with immigration court judge Dana Leigh Marks of the National Association of Immigration Judges is worth the watch. The administration requested $45 million for the courts that would include 40 new immigration judges, but Marks noted, “The immigration courts have 375,000 cases pending before them right now and only 228 immigration judges across the country to deal with those cases.” She added later, “You can imagine that 40 coming now towards the end of 2014 is not nearly enough to solve the problem that has been existing in the immigration courts even before the surge occurred.”

Israel — what about that Mideast peace process? The U.S. offered to help broker a cease-fire in the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians after teenagers were killed last week. President Obama spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday. The U.S. wouldn’t talk directly to Hamas — it has a longstanding policy against doing so — but would operate through intermediaries. In the past, that was through countries like Egypt. But one thing is clear in all this: the renewed Mideast peace process, initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, is dead. As Martin Indyk, the recently resigned Obama administration Mideast peace envoy, told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this month, “There is a deep loathing of each leader for the other that has built up over the years.”

What anti-incumbent wave? As we’ve noted in this space previously, incumbents are actually having a pretty good year, despite Rep. Eric Cantor’s stunning loss in Virginia and despite Americans’ pessimism about the country’s future and their abysmally and historically low approval ratings for Congress. In fact, incumbents have done BETTER this year so far than than the average after World War II. So far, according to Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics (h/t: Political Wire), House incumbents have won 273 of 275 races and Senators have gone 18-for-18. (The two who lost were Cantor and Ralph Hall of Texas.) That means just 0.7 percent of House incumbents have lost and 0 percent in the Senate. Since World War II, the average percentage of incumbents who lost reelection was 1.6 percent in the House and 4.6 percent in the Senate.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1767, future President John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree, MA. What occupation did Adams have after losing his second term bid to Andrew Jackson? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Nicandro Iannacci (‏@niannacci) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: President George H. W. Bush lifted economic sanctions against South Africa; when were the sanctions originally imposed and why? The answer was: In 1986 with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which called for the end of apartheid.

LINE ITEMS

  • Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates teamed up for a joint New York Times op-ed to call on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform. “The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us,” they write.
  • Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, considering running for president in 2016, called Hillary Clinton too “mainstream” for the Democratic party.
  • The Department of Justice will not investigate the spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the mishandling of classified documents dealing with the agency’s torture program.
  • Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, filed a motion asking Speaker Boehner to instruct the congressional police to arrest former IRS official Lois Lerner.
  • A federal judge is giving the IRS until August 10 to explain under oath the lost emails, which were sought in the investigation of the agency.
  • A nearly 50-year-old law is restricting access to rehabilitation and treatment facilities for some alcoholics and drug addicts, despite the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of coverage to that demographic.
  • A circuit court judge ruled that Florida’s congressional district map was unconstitutional Thursday, saying that two of the 27 districts are invalid and must be redrawn, along with any district touching them.
  • Five California men filed a lawsuit challenging the Suspicious Activity Reporting database, saying it is too easy for harmless people to be put into the system.
  • Big national donors pouring money into Colorado’s 6th Congressional District care little about GOP incumbent Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff or the race’s local issues. Instead, as one of the few competitive House races, it’s about swaying power in Washington.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have drafted competing plans for temporarily funding the Highway Trust Fund, whose funding expires on August 1.
  • Different perspectives on the influx of immigrant children at the Texas border from the Republican and Democratic Whips provide a window into the Senate’s divide over a supplemental spending bill to address the crisis.
  • American Crossroads seems particularly interested in helping former Bush officials this cycle, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar notes.
  • Forty-six states are holding legislative elections this fall. The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson looks at where those 6,049 seats in play are.
  • With Maine’s gubernatorial race yet again a three-way contest, the Bangor Daily News looks back at the month that shaped Gov. Paul LePage’s win, with just 38 percent of the vote, and the Democrat’s historic loss, and how that will influence this fall’s election.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to stay out of the spotlight at this weekend’s NGA summer meeting. Before that though, he’s serving as a last-minute speaker replacement for Secretary of State John Kerry Friday at a conference of media and tech elites in Sun Valley, Idaho.
  • A federal judge has lifted all remaining restrictions on the freedoms of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who has the honor of having accepted more bribes than any member of Congress. He had been under supervision since leaving prison.
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will officiate the wedding of Arianna Brown, daughter of former Massachusetts Senator and current New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown, this weekend.
  • Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley and historian Luke A. Nichter released audio recordings with transcripts from inside the Nixon Oval Office, including the president’s take on homosexuals.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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