Boehner v. Obama: House Approves Resolution to Sue President

Official White House Photo by Pete Souz(WASHINGTON) -- In a partisan vote that marks a new escalation in the Republican confrontation with President Obama, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to authorize Speaker John Boehner to initiate litigation against the president over allegations he's repeatedly overstepped his constitutional authority.

At issue is President Obama's changing of the Affordable Care Act law related to its penalty against businesses that do not offer health care to their employees. 

The provision -- and the economic impact from its proposed penalty -- was twice delayed by the Obama administration; critics allege that was done to shield Democrats from blowback at the ballot box. Because of the changes, the provision will now take effect in 2016.

In a floor speech during debate on the bill, Boehner said the vote was not about differences between Republicans and Democrats, but was, "about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised."

"No member of this body needs to be reminded of what the Constitution states about the president's obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our nation. No member needs to be reminded of the bonds of trust that have been frayed, of the damage that's already been done to our economy and to our people," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?  Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?"

Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic Caucus in opposition to the resolution.

Throughout the week, Democrats have complained that Republicans will potentially waste millions of dollars with what they called a "political stunt" that they believe will put the GOP on track to impeach the president.

"This lawsuit is frivolous. It is also wasteful and without merit," Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, claimed during debate on the bill, which he voted against. "We must focus on critical legislative priorities instead of political lawsuits that will do nothing but waste millions of taxpayers' dollars."

Rep. Adam Schiff, who also voted against the measure, questioned whether the House even has standing to sue the president over what he termed "a policy difference."

"The House cannot speak for the Senate which doesn't agree with its position, and, therefore, cannot represent the legislative branch," Schiff, D-California, said during debate on the bill. "This Congress has a remedy: if it does not like the way in which the president has implemented the Affordable Care Act, it can change the law. That would be a far better approach, one more consistent with our separation of powers than this expensive and ill-conceived lawsuit."

Boehner will not bring the matter up for a vote before the Bipartisan Legal Advisor Group, known as BLAG. Instead, the next step will either be the House general counsel either files or hires outside counsel, according to a Boehner spokesman.

According to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, the speaker and his team, "decided a BLAG vote was unnecessary, after consulting legal experts."

"The BLAG will not have to meet," Steel says. "We have greater standing if it’s an act of the whole House."

A U.S. District Court judge will have the final word whether the House actually has standing to sue the president, but Wednesday's vote to sue the president will almost certainly be one of the recurring soundtracks during the 97-day countdown to the fall elections.

Immediately following the vote, Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent out a fundraising email with the subject line "Give Obama Hell!" that sought to stimulate 1,500 new grassroots supporters.

The White House, meanwhile, reacted quickly, soliciting email addresses on its website but also making clear that the president will continue to take executive actions if Congress continues to block him legislatively.

"President Obama is ready and willing to work with Republicans in Congress if they decide to get serious and do something for the American people," the statement read. "But he is also committed to acting however he can to help more working families -- even as Congress won't."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Sen. Boxer: Obama's Pollution Proposal Can Prevent Bronchitis, Asthma Attacks, Heart Attacks

US Senator Barbara Boxer(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency hearings are discussing a proposed rule that would limit carbon pollution from power plants.

The proposal, from the Obama administration, would cut pollution 30% by 2030.

Senator Barbara Boxer supports the proposal, saying it would save and improve thousands of lives.

"It will avoid up to 3,700 cases of bronchitis in children; 150,000 asthma attacks; 3,300 heart attacks; 6,600 premature deaths and 490,000 missed days of school and work," Boxer said.

Boxer cited a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that reported about 70% of Americans believe such a rule is needed.

The June poll found 57% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 79% of Democrats support limiting greenhouse gases from existing power plants.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Former IRS Official Calls Conservatives 'Crazies' in Emails

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Internal Revenue Service senior official Lois Lerner apparently believed conservatives were “a–holes” and “crazies,” according to emails released by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., released a redacted email exchange from Lerner’s official IRS email account that Republicans believe shows she held personal bias and hostility against conservatives.

In the Nov. 9, 2012 email evidently sent while Lerner was vacationing in England, she appeared to refer to conservatives as “a–holes” and suggest they could cause the downfall of the federal government.

“So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. (sic) It’s our own crazies that will take us down,” Lerner wrote in an email to a recipient whose identity was redacted. A Republican aide at the Ways and Means Committee said the person Lerner was emailing was not an agency employee.

The unknown person said American talk radio shows were “scary to listen to” and said callers to those shows were “rabid.”

The House voted earlier this year to find Lerner in contempt of Congress and also, on a separate resolution, to request that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups and possible criminal wrongdoing at the IRS.

So far, Holder, who is also the target of articles impeachment in the House, has maintained that he will not comply with the House’s request.

“Despite the serious investigation and evidence this committee has undertaken into the IRS' targeting of individuals for their beliefs, there is no indication that DOJ is taking this matter seriously,” Camp said. “In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Senators Introduce Bill to Combat College Sexual Assault

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill Wednesday to curb sexual assaults occurring on college campuses.

“If you are a young woman and you attend school, the odds jump that you will be sexually assaulted at school, probably by someone you know from your class, from a team, from a party,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. “The price of a college education should not be that one in five women will be sexually assaulted.”

“We are telling our young people every day that in order to get ahead they have to go to school. Let's make sure that when they do that they're safe,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.

“We are done with the days of asking victims why they drank too much, or wore the wrong thing or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.  “Those days are done and students are embracing a new culture of accountability that will be enforced through this measure.”

The measure, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), will create new support services for victims of sexual assault on college campuses, including designating Confidential Advisors for students to speak with, and ensures on-campus staff will received specialized training on handling sexual assault cases.

It also requires colleges and universities to survey all of their students on their experiences with sexual violence on campus; requires the Department of Education to release the names of schools with pending investigations into their handling of sexual assault cases; increases coordination between colleges and law enforcement; removes the ability of athletic departments to handle sexual assault cases involving athletes; and institutes a penalty for schools that don’t comply with Title IX.

The senators were joined by survivors of sexual assault, who detailed the responses they received when they reported their assaults.

“When I reported that I was sexually assaulted, someone told me that rape was like a football game and that I should look back on that game to figure out what I would do differently in that situation,” Annie Clark, a former student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.

“One Sunday morning my sophomore year at Carolina, I woke up in a bed soaked in blood with bruises of my attacker. My body was covered in bruises and far away from home, I was alone in my recovery, told by my administrators that I could just not handle college,” Andrea Pino, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.

The co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Rubio, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Dean Heller, R-N.V., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

The bill comes weeks after a Senate subcommittee released a survey finding that 41 percent of institutions didn’t conduct a single investigation of sexual assault on their campuses in the past five years.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Impeach the President? History Isn’t on GOP’s Side

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- They say that history repeats itself, but when it comes to impeachment, Republicans may have learned their lesson the first time.

House Speaker John Boehner insisted Tuesday that Republicans had “no plans to impeach the president,” calling talk of removing President Obama from office “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

But Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, told reporters last Friday the House has “opened the door” to impeaching the president by filing a lawsuit against him over changes made to the health care law that were not approved by Congress.

So why are Republican leaders apparently steering away from trying to oust the president?

One reason may be that it didn’t make too many people happy the last time.

With midterms around the corner and a majority in the Senate up for grabs, Republicans have a lot of chips on the table. The GOP needs public opinion on their side, and based on what happened last time, impeachment likely won’t get them there.

The GOP-controlled House impeached former President Bill Clinton in December 1998. But the American people didn’t seem to side with the Republicans.

Almost six in 10 Americans said they were dissatisfied -- or even angry -- when the House voted to impeach Clinton. And 62 percent disapproved of how Senate Republicans handled the following trial.

And only a third wanted the Senate to remove him from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

What’s more, six in 10 Americans said the House voted to impeach Clinton based on partisan politics instead of the facts of the case and 74 percent thought the same thing about the Senate.

The number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans fell to match a then 15-year low at the time of the impeachment vote -- a potential shot in the foot at a time when Republicans were working to unify their base.

Of course, there would be several differences this time around: for example, Clinton’s approval rating was a solid 67 percent at the time of his impeachment, while Obama’s now is 46 percent.

But few observers believe that Republicans who are looking to mobilize a splintered electorate and pick up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate see an impeachment battle as the way forward.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Obama Scolds Congress: Stop 'Hatin' All the Time'

The White House(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- With just two days left until Congress goes on vacation, President Obama on Wednesday urged lawmakers to get to work and “stop just hatin’ all the time.”

“We could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit,” Obama said, chuckling. “Stop being mad all the time. ...I’ve only got a couple years left. Come on, then you can be mad at the next president.”

In a rowdy, campaign-style speech before a packed house at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, the president slammed Republicans for wasting time on a “political stunt.”

“The main vote that they’ve scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job,” he said, to boos from the crowd.

“It’s not a productive thing to do,” he added. “Instead of suing me for doing my job, I want Congress to do its job.”

Obama touted his executive actions and efforts to circumvent gridlock in Congress, declaring, “We act when Congress won’t.”

“They are mad because I’m doing my job,” he said. “And by the way, I’ve told them, ‘I’d be happy to do it with you. The only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you don’t do anything.’”

“Imagine how much further along we’d be, how much stronger our economy would be, if Congress was doing its job, too,” the president said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Border Crisis Funding Advances in Senate 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate advanced an emergency supplemental bill Wednesday morning that includes $2.7 billion in funding for the border crisis.

The Senate voted 63 to 33 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure, the initial procedural vote on the bill, which also includes $225 million for the Iron Dome and $615 million for combating wildfires. (It’s unclear at this time when the next vote would be.)

The Senate’s measure is $1 billion less than what President Obama requested to address the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Republican-controlled House is considering a much smaller package -- $659 million -- for the border.

Notably, two Senate Democrats in tough midterm races this year voted against advancing the measure -- Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. 

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


'Do Nothing' Congress Gets Busy Raising Campaign Cash

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you’re looking for a senator or member of Congress this week, you may have better luck at The Capital Grille than the Capitol.

This final stretch of July is not just the last chance for Congress to address highway funding and the border crisis before a five-week vacation. It’s also the end of the summer fundraising circuit in one of the most expensive midterms election cycles in history -- the last chance to collect checks in Washington before the fall campaign season ties down incumbents and candidates in their home districts and states.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are holding at least 100 fundraisers in Washington, D.C. in the days leading up to the August recess, according to fundraising lists obtained by ABC News, with senators who aren’t even on the ballot in 2014 holding events.

With contributions ranging from $50 to $5,000, Washington politicos can join representatives and senators for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- or all three.

The events don’t stop at meals.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, is hosting a happy hour event after work Wednesday, while Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat, is taking in a DC United soccer game with supporters later that evening.

On Monday, Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly sailed supporters down the Potomac River on a lunchtime cruise sponsored by a boating industry PAC, according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation.

While Republicans and Democrats blame one another for the dysfunction that has gripped the Capitol -- the 113th Congress is already on track to be one of the least productive sessions ever -- they share a bipartisan knack for finding sufficient time for fundraising.

Several lawmakers are holding more than one event over the course of the week, while others are cramming in multiple fundraisers a day.

Take, for example, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, who began her day at a fundraising breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, a Louisiana-inspired restaurant just off Capitol Hill, and ended her day over Italian food at Carmine’s.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, hosted a noon lunch on Tuesday at Bearnaise, a French bistro on Capitol Hill, and six hours later she was in a private booth at Fiola, an Italian restaurant that sits between the Capitol and the White House.

She didn’t, however, have the restaurant to herself.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, held a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising dinner of his own at Fiola on Tuesday night.

Hoyer offered a greeting to Blackburn’s table as he made his way to one of Fiola’s two private dining rooms. (The other was occupied by a party that included Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.)

“We don’t discriminate. For us, it’s really about hospitality,” said Jessica Botta, the director of culinary development at Fiola, which regularly hosts Washington lawmakers but also out-of-towners like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “We’re just providing a great service to Democrats and Republicans.”

The end of the legislative week is not the end of the fundraising calendar: one restaurateur expects roughly a third of his election-year business to come from fundraisers.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


McCain: US, FIFA Should 'Reconsider' Holding Next World Cup in Russia

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain and a leading Democratic senator are calling on American and international soccer officials to reconsider the decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia, casting it as a way to leverage power against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a way he’s sure to understand.

McCain, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the ESPN/ABC podcast “Capital Games” that while the U.S. can play a leadership role in pressing for a new country to be chosen for hosting duties, there should be no boycott.

“It absolutely should be reconsidered, but I would hasten to add that a unilateral decision by the United States would not bode well,” said McCain, R-Ariz. “I’d like to see the United States and others -- say, the British perhaps and other countries -- raise the issue in ordinary meetings, periodic meetings that they have. Say, ‘We need to discuss this issue. Is it appropriate to have this venue in Russia at this particular time, and aren’t there other countries that would be far less controversial?’”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has traveled to Ukraine with McCain and worked closely with him in support of the Ukrainian government, agreed that FIFA, the governing body of World Cup soccer, needs to press Putin by holding out the possibility that Russia would lose the 2018 World Cup.

“If in the face of a downed airliner, in the face of crippling sanctions from the European Union, Putin thumbs his nose at the international community and continues to send in arms and personnel into eastern Ukraine, then I’m not sure how you reward this guy and his government with a major, international competition,” Murphy said.

“This guy is all about image and right now he’s obsessed with this image as a crusading military aggressor -- a tough guy. But he also wants the ability for people to come to Russia and to see what he has done and the country that he has built. I think that this could be a real blow to him,” Murphy added. “It might in the end be even more consequential to him and his prestige than any individual sanction against his economy that the United States or Europe is contemplating.”

McCain said the value Putin sees in showcasing his country at worldwide sporting events was obvious at the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year. It was also on display at the World Cup in Brazil earlier this month, where Putin was pictured receiving a ceremonial soccer ball from FIFA President Sepp Blatter to mark the fact that Russia has hosting duties next.

“Obviously, he is a man of mammoth ego. He is the closest thing to an all-out dictator that we have seen,” McCain said of Putin. “His ego is mammoth, and any blows to his ego [are] strongly resented. But also, his behavior is basically -- he has gotten away with, literally, with murder.”

“Let us recognize and identify Vladimir Putin for what he is, and Russian behavior for what it is. And frankly that [losing the World Cup] will be the greatest blow to him, because he loves being on the world stage,” McCain added.

The calls from McCain and Murphy echo those of top government officials in the U.K. and Germany, among other countries, who have called on soccer’s international governing body to revoke the tournament from Russia in light of the nation’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

FIFA has dismissed such calls, arguing that keeping the tournament in Russia will foster international dialog that “can achieve positive change.”

Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Grant Wahl said on the podcast that FIFA officials appear unlikely to bow to demands of political leaders, when the organization’s sponsors hold the real sway. He said it was telling that FIFA proactively has said the World Cup will take place in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, despite recent controversy about those selections.

“I don’t think anything that happens in the very near term is going to have an influence on FIFA deciding one way or the other,” Wahl said. “FIFA’s just a very insular organization and a lot of their top people don’t to me seem all that troubled by the reputation that FIFA has. They simply look at the bottom line.”

McCain noted that some countries, including the Netherlands, are hesitant to speak out against Putin more forcefully because they depend on Russia for energy resources. That puts more of an onus on the United States to use levers at its disposal, he said.

“There’s no doubt that Vladimir Putin feels that he can literally get away with murder,” McCain said. “He is responsible, in my view, for the shoot-down of that [Malaysian] airliner and the tragedy associated with it. So he’s gotten away with murder. And look at it from his viewpoint, and all things considered, he’s doing pretty well.”

Preparing a location to host the World Cup can be a lengthy process, and both Murphy and Wahl agree it’s time to prod Putin now, while there’s still time to solicit proposals for alternative sites if he refuses to cooperate.

“You have to do it by the end of the year. ...You can’t take the chance that this guy is going to calm down and start behaving -- because what if another Ukraine crisis erupts in the winter of 2017-2018?” said Murphy.

“If the World Cup was, say, a month from now, I don’t think we would be sending teams to the World Cup and I don’t think that Europe would either,” he added.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


POLL: President Obama Rated Poorly on Mideast Conflict

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- President Barack Obama falls short of majority approval for his handling of two of the world’s prime hotspots in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, with an especially weak rating for his work on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Just 39 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, while more than half, 52 percent, disapprove. The president does better for his response to the downed Malaysian Airlines jetliner in Ukraine; 46 percent approve -- but virtually as many, 43 percent, disapprove.

[See PDF with full results here.]

The United States has realized some progress in Ukraine, where European nations this week agreed to join the U.S. in imposing sanctions on Russia. The administration continues to struggle in the Middle East, where U.S. efforts to broker a cease-fire thus far have failed.

Obama’s approval rating for handling international affairs overall, at 46 percent, is up by 5 percentage points from his career low last month. But 50 percent still disapprove, unchanged. And the number who strongly approve of Obama’s work on foreign affairs has hit an all-time low, 16 percent. Thirty-six percent strongly disapprove; that gap is the largest of his presidency.

There’s a similar, 19-point gap in strong sentiment on Obama’s handling of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians -- 14 percent approve strongly, while 33 percent strongly disapprove. The division on the Ukraine incident is less sharp, but still 9 points net negative in strength of sentiment.

Partisanship is a key driver of these views: Among Democrats, 77, 72 and 65 percent approve, respectively, of Obama’s handling of international affairs, the Ukraine situation and the conflict in Gaza and Israel. Among Republicans, those numbers plummet to 13, 20 and 18 percent.

As often is the case, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that the balance is tilted by independents: Just 37 percent approve of Obama’s work on international affairs overall, 41 percent on the Ukraine incident and 31 percent on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Obama’s rating for handling the situation involving Israel and the Palestinians is worse than four such measures for his predecessor, George W. Bush, ranging from a high of 59 percent approval in 2002 to a low of 46 percent in 2003, amid growing doubts about the war in Iraq.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone July 23-27, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,026 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio