H.Res. 676, Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States

H.Res. 676

Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States

Committee
Rules

Date
July 30, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, July 30, 2014, the House will consider H.Res. 676, a resolution providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States, under a rule. H.Res. 676 was introduced by Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), Chairman, House Committee on Rules, on July 22, 2014. H.Res. 676 was marked up by the House Committee on Rules on July 24, 2014 and reported as amended.

Bill Summary

H.Res. 676 authorizes the Speaker to initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in federal court. The resolution authorizes the Speaker to seek the appropriate relief regarding the failure of the President, cabinet member(s), or executive branch employee(s) to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and U.S. laws with respect to implementation title 1 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including amendment(s) made by such provision or any other related provision of law, including failure to implement. The Speaker is responsible for notifying the House of a decision to initiate or intervene in such action. The resolution also directs the Office of the General Counsel of the House of Representatives to represent the House in any civil action initiated or in which the House intervenes and authorizes the Office of General Counsel to employ outside counsel and experts, if needed, for this purpose. Finally, the resolution directs the Chair of the Committee on Administration to disclose in the Congressional Record a statement setting forth the aggregate amounts spent by the Office of the General Counsel and other experts on a quarterly basis.

Background

Under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed….”[1] Despite the “take care” clause, the current President has demonstrated a belief that he has the power to write his own laws. His unilateral actions on the health care law’s employer mandate is the most telling example. The President unilaterally waived the employer mandate and corresponding penalties, established in law, on two separate occasions.[2]

Under Article III of the Constitution, federal courts are authorized to hear cases and controversies “rising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States….”[3] This includes Congress. Like any plaintiff, the House must be able to demonstrate that it has standing to sue in this case. The courts have recognized and utilized their constitutional role in upholding the separation of powers between the legislative branch and the executive branch since Marbury v. Madison.  A House of Congress is the natural and appropriate plaintiff to urge the courts to enforce the separation of powers.   If the courts were to deny standing, the President’s power would go unchecked. Such a ruling would invite this President and his successors to seize even more congressional authority at the expense of the Constitution that all Members of Congress—and the President—took an oath to defend.

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[1]See U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 3.
[2] See July 2, 2013 – The Obama Administration announces via blog post a delay in the implementation of the employer mandate for businesses with over 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents until January 1, 2015.  The Administration also delayed the employer and insurer information reporting requirements for 2014.  See also, February 10, 2014 – The Administration delays the requirement for businesses with fewer than 100 employees to offer health insurance until 2016.  Employers with 100 or more employees must offer affordable health insurance to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016.
[3]See U.S. Constitution, Article 3, Section 2.

Cost

No CBO estimate is available.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.