GOP bill lets Congress sue Obama over failure to enforce laws

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) has proposed legislation that would allow the House and Senate to sue the Obama administration for its failure to enforce the law or for what lawmakers consider to be other violations of the Constitution.

Legal challenges against Obama would be put on a fast track that leads to a decision within 90 days, and these decisions could only be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

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Gerlach's bill, H.R. 3857, is a response to what Republicans see as a series of decisions by President Obama to selectively enforce laws passed by Congress. The GOP has complained for months about delays to various provisions of ObamaCare, and Obama's 2011 decision to prioritize the deportation of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes over other illegal immigrants.

"In recent months, we have witnessed an unparalleled use of executive discretion to selectively apply or enforce duly-enacted federal laws," Gerlach wrote to colleagues last week. "These decisions have not only exceeded the rights and responsibilities bestowed on a president by the U.S. Constitution, but they have undermined the collective work that Congress constitutionally fulfills under Article I.

"The U.S. Code is not an a la carte menu compiled to serve the whims of a president and federal agencies — and no president or executive agency, regardless of political party or affiliation — should be able to simply pick and choose the laws they believe should be enforced based on their policy agenda or political wants."

Gerlach's bill tries to solve this problem by giving the House and Senate new authority to seek "declaratory and injunctive relief to compel the president to faithfully execute" U.S. laws. Before filing an action, the House and Senate would have to pass a resolution that has the support of 60 percent of all members present and voting.

Under the bill, actions would be filed in the District Court in Washington, D.C. and would have to be heard no later than 30 days after being filed.

The bill says rules and regulations, executive orders and decisions not to defend the constitutionality of a law could all be the subject of a legal action by the House or Senate.

In an interview with The Hill, Gerlach said his bill was developed after Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University, testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month about the dangers of having a president who does not faithfully executive the laws.

"The danger is quite severe," Turley told the committee. "The problem with what the president is doing is that he's not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He's becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid."

Gerlach said the bill would help ensure the Supreme Court could relatively quickly weigh in on these issues and help push for compliance with the law in cases where the administration has ignored the demands of Congress.

"We think it's the right balance between policy and politics within the legislative body," he said.