The resolution, adopted 225-201, would authorize a lawsuit against the president over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with five Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition — Paul Broun of Georgia, Steve Stockman of Texas, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina.
GOP leaders plan to sue over his decision to delay the employer mandate without authorization from Congress.
Republicans say the unilateral employer mandate delay is just one example of the White House's disregard for the rule of law. Indeed, when Speaker John A. Boehner first announced his intent to sue the president , Republicans weren't sure which action they would target. They had a menu of options to chose from, which Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, highlighted during the floor debate Wednesday.
"By circumventing Congress, the president's actions have marginalized the role that the American people play in creating the laws that govern them," said Sessions. "Specifically, the president has waived work requirements for welfare recipients, unilaterally changed immigrations laws, released the 'Gitmo Five' without properly notifying Congress — which is the law — and ignored the statutory requirements of the Affordable Care Act. "We have chosen to bring this legislation forth today," he continued, "to sue the president over his selected implementation of the Affordable Care Act, because it is the option most likely to clear the legal hurdles necessary to succeed."
Democrats, of course, cried foul.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the lawsuit was "nothing more than a partisan bill to rally the Republican base."
Many Democrats said the lawsuit was the only avenue Republicans had to quell the rank-and-file short of pursuing articles of impeachment.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, called the resolution "veiled attempt for impeachment," and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said it was "impeachment-lite."
The minority party also questioned why House Republicans would sue Obama for not implementing a law they want to repeal.
"Yes, years after rallying against the Affordable Care Act ... voting to derail it, working against it ... they are suing the president for not implementing it fast enough," said Rules ranking member Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y. "If that makes no sense to you, you are not alone. We don't understand it either."
But Boehner stood in the well of the House and sought to dispel those arguments.
"Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?" Boehner asked, framing the issue as one of common sense for anyone concerned about the separation of powers and branches of government. "Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?"
With the passage of the resolution, the House will now proceed to enter into contracts with outside attorneys and legal experts to carry out the lawsuit, using funds from the office of the House general counsel. Republicans have said the scope of the suit is so narrow it won't require an exorbitant amount of money, and that they will be transparent regardless about the costs.
Democrats have countered that the last time the House pursued legal action as a legislative body — to defend the Defense of Marriage Act — it cost the chamber more than $2 million and led to defeat in the Supreme Court.
Obama earlier dismissed the effort, suggesting it might not even be decided by the courts until after he leaves office.
"The main vote that they’ve scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job," Obama said to boos from an audience in Kansas City, Mo.
"They have announced that they’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they’re mad because I’m doing my job. And, by the way, I’ve told them — I said, I’d be happy to do it with you. So the only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you don’t do anything."
Obama added, "everybody recognizes this is a political stunt, but it’s worse than that, because every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you."
He also knocked the GOP for having taxpayers pay for the lawsuit.
"You’re paying for it. And it’s estimated that by the time the thing was done, I would have already left office. So it’s not a productive thing to do."
Matt Fuller and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.