By Billy House and Matt Berman
July 30, 2014 — The House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to do what became inevitable weeks ago: proceed with a lawsuit to sue President Obama over executive actions related to Obamacare. The vote was split along party lines, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor of pursuing the lawsuit and all Democrats opposed.
This is the first time either the House or Senate as an institution has brought a lawsuit against a president over enforcement of the law. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did file a lawsuit challenging the president’s handling of congressional health benefits, but a federal judge last week dismissed that suit.
So what happens next? Now, it’s up to Speaker John Boehner and the House counsel for a “designation” of the action, meaning work will then begin with lawyers to finalize the language and legal direction of the lawsuit, deciding which arguments will have the best chances of success in court.
Approval of the eventual direction and filing of the lawsuit will not have to go before a vote of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), a process that had been previously set. The outcome of such a vote would likely not have changed the direction of the suit anyway. The BLAG is comprised of three Republican members of House leadership—the speaker, majority leader, and majority whip—and the two top leaders of the Democratic Caucus—the minority leader and whip.
The BLAG represented House Republicans in their effort to defend the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, which was unsuccessful.
But a senior Democratic aide said Wednesday that the BLAG was “cut out” of the process of approving this lawsuit because “Republicans were worried about the optics of [Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi being involved.”
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