Constitution Daily

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Jeffrey Rosen explains the House lawsuit against President Obama on WHYY

August 6, 2014 by NCC Staff


Joint_Session_of_Congress-450x300Can the House of Representatives really sue the president? Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, discussed the political and constitutional stakes on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.

“Neither the House nor the Senate have ever institutionally voted to sue the president before,” Rosen told Moss-Coane. “There have been lots of lawsuits by individual House members or groups of members of the House and Senate against the president, but they have not fared very well.

“For example, members of the House sued President Clinton over executive orders involving the line-item veto. More recently, [former] Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sued President Obama over the Libya bombing. These suits have tended to be dismissed by courts because of what’s called ‘lack of standing.’

“The Constitution imposes a requirement under Article III that there be an injury in fact against an identifiable individual before a suit can proceed. And the Supreme Court, in cases like the Raines case from the [1960s], [has] said it’s difficult to prove individual injury against members of the House of Representatives when the president does something the House doesn’t like.

“There’s another barrier, and it’s called the ‘political question’ doctrine. Generally, courts are very reluctant to intervene in disputes between the political branches, between the president and Congress. They’ve said, ‘You guys have to work this out. It’s not our job to settle this for you.’

“So although there are interesting counterarguments on the other side that Republicans have made,” Rosen said, “I think the conventional wisdom is that, because this suit is so novel, it will have an uphill battle in the courts.”

Rosen was joined by Will Bunch, reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News.

You can listen to the full program online.

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