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Republicans to vote on suing President Obama — is impeachment next?

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  July 30, 2014 at 9:01 AM EST
Speaker of the House John Boehner. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Health care, immigration intertwined for GOP lawsuit and opposition
  • Timeline of a lawsuit
  • Is impeachment for real – or just a Democratic (and some Republicans’) fantasy?
  • House GOP set to move on border bill; Reid floats idea of ‘conference’

House GOP to vote on lawsuit against Obama – How did we get here? House Republicans are set to vote late Wednesday afternoon/early evening to authorize House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama for what they see as executive overreach. It’s an historic move — never before has the House or Senate institutionally sued the president of the United States. So how did we get here? We lay out below a comprehensive timeline over just the last two months that shows how immigration and health care have been intertwined in a deepening crisis of trust between Republicans and President Obama and vice-versa. It also shows the difference between Boehner and the more conservative hard line, which has been floating talk of the “I” word — impeachment. The issue that lights up the hard-liners on the right is immigration and the “A” word, “amnesty.” But Boehner sees it differently. By all indications, he would like to do something on immigration, but it’s just not possible with this conference. Instead, he decided to focus the lawsuit resolution on what’s been successful in the courts to a degree — health care. Why? (1) He probably doesn’t want to incite and inflame on immigration, but (2) more likely, he needed to find something that was concrete, not something the president MIGHT act on. You can’t sue for something that hasn’t happened. While he’s all in on this lawsuit, impeachment for Boehner remains a non-starter — although Democrats are happy to highlight every Republican for whom impeachment is the ultimate goal. Most observers believe this lawsuit is an attempt to take some air out of the impeachment balloon. But if Obama presses ahead on immigration executive action, will Boehner’s lawsuit, which again focuses on health care, be able to contain the coming outrage? By the way, to see just how intertwined both health care and immigration have been in the lead up to this lawsuit, look no further than June 30th.

Timeline of a lawsuit:
May 28 – The White House asks the Department of Homeland Security to delay its recommendations for executive action on immigration, because President Obama believes “there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer.”
June 2 – Obama releases a memorandum declaring the influx unaccompanied children at the border “an urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated Federal response.”
June 24 – Boehner announces his intention to sue Obama over use of executive actions
June 27 – Obama leans into the lawsuit, mocking Republicans and declaring, “They’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.”
June 30 – In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rules that some religiously affiliated companies do not have to pay for contraception in employee health plans in what’s known as the Hobby Lobby case.
June 30 – On the same day, Obama announces he will pursue executive action on immigration by the end of the summer after Obama said Boehner told him a week earlier that the House would not pursue immigration reform.
July 2 – Obama mocks Republicans again, declaring, “So sue me.
July 7 – Boehner responds, calling Obama’s mockery a “flippant dismissal of the Constitution” and “utterly beneath the dignity of the office.”
July 8 – Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, declares, “It’s time to impeach” Obama over his immigration policy. Her explicit call for impeachment comes on the heels of four years of many of the most conservative members floating the possibility of impeachment, including Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Ted Yoho and Allen West of Florida, Michael Burgess, Steve Stockman, Louie Gohmert, Randy Weber and Blake Farenthold of Texas, Paul Broun and Jack Kingston of Georgia and Steve King of Iowa.
July 8 – This same day, President Obama requests $3.7 billion from Congress to deal with the border crisis. Both Democrats and Republicans significantly scaled back the request, but Congress has yet to come up with a deal before the lawmakers go on a five-week recess Friday.
July 9 – Boehner, asked for reaction to Palin’s call for impeachment, says, “I disagree.”
July 10 – Boehner unveils text of the resolution providing “authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.” The resolution solely focuses on the Affordable Care Act and not immigration.
July 22 – Federal courts issue conflicting rulings on whether the tax subsidies applied to health plans purchased in federal exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act are legal.
July 25 – White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer alleges that Boehner, with his lawsuit against the president “has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future.”
July 27 – Newly installed House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana declines to rule out the possibility of impeaching the president on Fox News Sunday. He instead points the finger back at Pfeiffer.
July 28 – The AP reports that despite the unaccompanied minors crisis, the White House is forging ahead with plans to grant work permits to potentially millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
July 29 – Boehner, asked again about the possibility of impeachment, says, “We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans. … It’s all a scam started by the Democrats at the White House.” Boehner alleges that Democrats are trying to “rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election.” In fact, Democrats, as of Tuesday, raised $1 million off talk of impeachment and nearly $8 million in the month since Boehner announced the lawsuit.
July 30 – House GOP set to vote on the resolution.

Why Democrats think the lawsuit — and a potential push for impeachment — are good things: For some data points on why Democrats see this lawsuit as a positive politically and continue to raise the possibility of impeachment, in 1998, when Republicans were pushing impeachment against then-President Bill Clinton, Democrats wound up gaining five House seats, and lost no Senate seats. (The Republican-led House approved of two articles of impeachment against Clinton– perjury and obstruction of justice — in December 1998, during the lame-duck session after the midterms.) It was the first time since the Great Depression that a president’s party in his second term actually gained seats in a midterm. In fact, the only other presidents to see their parties gain seats in the House — in any term — since 1934 were Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934 when his party gained nine seats and George W. Bush in 2002, after the 9/11 attacks, when Republicans gained two. Most Americans don’t support impeaching President Obama, a CNN/ORC poll found Thursday. Just 33 percent said he should be impeached, while nearly two-thirds — 65 percent — disagreed. Just 41 percent said they believe Republicans should file a lawsuit against the president; 57 percent said they should not. But here’s the big difference: 57 percent of Republicans said they believe the president SHOULD be impeached while just 13 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of independents said so. On the lawsuit, fully three-in-four — 75 percent — of Republicans said one should be filed. Just 12 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents felt the same way.

Reid’s ‘conference’ suggestion a poison pill?: The stalemate over how to address the situation at the border has done little to help calm tensions between the two parties. House GOP leaders are expected to move forward with a $659 million, two-month proposal that would change a 2008 anti-trafficking law in order to expedite the process of returning tens of thousands of child migrants from Central America to their home countries. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who led the House GOP working group that offered recommendations to deal with the border crisis, said Tuesday that lawmakers were doing “everything we can do to speed this up” to send children “back to their families as quickly as possible.” The plan faces skeptics, however, with Democrats objecting to revising the trafficking law, and some Republicans arguing the measure could be used to launch talks on comprehensive immigration reform. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said Tuesday that he worries the Senate will “undermine” the House bill “and send back to us an amnesty and open borders bill that has a risk of passing the House over the objection of a majority of the GOP conference.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stoked those concerns Tuesday, telling reporters if Republicans pass a border bill in the House, “maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform.” The Nevada Democrat insisted he was “not threatening anything,” but said supporters of reform have been “looking for something to do conference on” since the Senate approved an immigration overhaul last year. In response, House Speaker John Boehner fired off a statement that accused Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s common-sense solution.” Boehner, under pressure to reassure wary conservatives, charged that “adding such measures will run into a brick wall in the People’s House.” The four Republicans who helped form the so-called “Gang of Eight” in the Senate — John McCain, Jeff Flake, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — also pushed back on Reid’s maneuver, calling it “a blatant attempt to scuttle House Republicans’ good-faith efforts to pass legislation.” A procedural vote on the Senate’s $2.7 billion border bill could come as early as Wednesday. With Democrats in the chamber unlikely to get the 60 votes required to advance the measure, they could face increasing pressure to act on the House plan if it passes. Any changes Democrats make to that legislation would likely cost Republican support in the House. There is also an issue of timing, with the House set to leave Thursday for the five-week August recess, leaving a narrow window for any sort of legislative back-and-forth.

Polls show tough numbers for Obama on handling of crises: A pair of polls out Wednesday show challenges for President Obama on two of crises he is dealing with — the Mideast and the unaccompanied children at the border. Obama gets just a 39 percent approval for his response to the fighting in Gaza, according an ABC News/Washington Post poll. (A slim plurality — 46 percent to 43 percent — approves of the way he’s handled the downing of the Malaysian jetliner in Ukraine.) His overall handling of foreign policy, however, ticked up 5 points to 46 percent, rebounding from an all-time low for President Obama in the poll last month. On the border crisis, by a 53 percent to 44 percent margin, Americans say the U.S. “has no moral obligation to offer asylum to people who escape violence or political persecution,” according to a new AP-GFK poll. A majority — 52 percent — say the children escaping gang violence in Central America and coming to the United States should not be given refugee status. Like most things, there’s a sharp partisan divide — with 70 percent of Republicans saying they shouldn’t be treated as refugees while 62 percent of Democrats saying they should.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a change to the Social Security Act that established Medicare and Medicaid. Who did LBJ call “the real daddy of Medicare”? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Ray Glennon ‏(@RayGlennon) and EmGusk ‏(@EmGusk) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: What event almost ten months earlier prompted the creation of NASA? The answer was: the launch of Sputnik.

LINE ITEMS

  • At 12 p.m. ET, President Obama will deliver remarks on the economy at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri. The president will return to Washington in the afternoon.

  • The Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the next Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Tuesday in a 97 to 0 vote.

  • Both chambers have passed a bill to save the Highway Trust Fund, but getting the Senate or the House to agree on each other’s legislation is going to be tricky, if not impossible.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on America’s torture tactics could be released while Congress is away for summer break.

  • Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise doesn’t formally assume his role as majority whip until Thursday, but conservatives are giving him good marks so far for including them in the process of crafting the border bill.

  • With Scalise and soon-to-be Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy taking on most of Eric Cantor’s duties, the Virginia congressman has made his exit from the Capitol quiet and uneventful.

  • National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Greg Walden will seek a second term as chair.

  • Former Ohio GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette compared Republican outside groups like the Club for Growth to the Ebola virus in a Wall Street Journal editorial meeting Tuesday — to which a Club for Growth spokesman replied, “There is no cure for the Ebola virus.”

  • The Los Angeles Times notes that California Gov. Jerry Brown was more vocal about the ongoing border crisis during his trip to Mexico on Tuesday.

  • The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman writes that Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, who is running in the state’s open 6th District, is the most frightening candidate he’s ever interviewed.

  • As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heads to New Hampshire, party insiders are split over whether he can stage his own political comeback.

  • New ads from the Judicial Crisis Network will meet Christie in the Granite State Thursday.

  • A Hendrix College poll on the Arkansas Senate race has Sen. Mark Pryor trailing Rep. Tom Cotton by 2 points, with 7 percent undecided and 7 percent supporting one of two third party candidates.

  • A United States Court of Appeals panel stopped the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi from closing Tuesday.

  • A county clerk in Boulder, Colorado was ordered to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, just as the arguments are set to commence at the state’s Supreme Court to decide whether to enforce Colorado’s same-sex union ban.

  • Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is relying on an interesting defense in his public corruption trial. Lawyers for McDonnell and his wife Maureen claim their marriage was broken and the former First Lady of Virginia had a crush on the businessman who gave them the gifts in question in this case.

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation could soon have a new home, either in Maryland or Northern Virginia.

  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is working on a new book, due out early next year. The possible subtitle, he told the Louisville Courier-Journal, is “Beyond Partisanship.”

  • Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman may be in one of the most competitive fights this cycle, but it’s his wife who’s getting a boost from a $2.6 million TV ad buy. Colorado Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is running for attorney general.

  • Rep. Tony Schnell, R-Ohio, inspired public outrage that spurred Congress to action when he proposed a five-cent tax on emails in 1999. That would have been a persuasive example to rally this Congress to get something done, The Fix notes, but alas, Schnell and his bill never existed.

  • Fifty African leaders are headed to the White House early next week, and federal agencies have been cautioned to let employees telecommute, due to the significant traffic problems the summit will cause.

  • 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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