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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

 
Executive power outage

by digby


It's tempting to dismiss John Boehner's lawsuit against presidential power as a hail Mary pass to head off impeachment but as Paul Begala points out here, there may be more to this than Democrats grok. Despite the fact that many people have been saying the presidency is mostly a ceremonial position with little power to act and almost no influence on the political system, the fact is that the presidency does control one full branch of the US government. And that's a problem for the party of no:

Boehner's sue first, ask questions later strategy just might work. Not because the suit has merit but because the Supreme Court has several activist Republican justices. They recently rewrote the First Amendment to declare that corporations have souls and thus have freedom of religion. Soon, I expect them to grant sainthood to Koch Industries.

Obviously, I can't get into Boehner's head. It is entirely possible that there is no grand strategy here. Perhaps his lawsuit is just one strand of a handful of spaghetti he's throwing against the wall just to get through the day and survive the latest tea party onslaught. And yet, there is a chance this one strand will stick.

On the other hand, progressives would do well to assume there is a method to Boehner's madness. The court's right wing plays a long game. Perhaps realizing that shifting demographics and a divided GOP will make it difficult to put a Republican back in the White House, they may seize on Boehner's lawsuit and use it to further crimp the power of the chief executive.

Unable to marshal the votes to get their legislative agenda through the Senate and unable to earn the votes to recapture the White House, it may be that the Republicans' strategy for the foreseeable future is to ignore their losses at the ballot box and leave the heavy lifting to the one place where five Republican votes can cancel out tens of millions of Americans' votes: the Supreme Court.

I've been thinking the same thing. In the past conservatives have been reluctant to limit executive power while liberals tended to be for it. Today, both sides are for it, which would be an interesting phenomenon were it not for the fact that this particular majority is more blatantly politically partisan than we've ever seen before. We know Republicans are likely to have a rough time cobbling together a majority for the presidency in the near future so concentrating on limiting the executive branch's ability to function makes a lot of sense. After all, it's not as if GOP presidents will care about any of that unless it applies to the police and military functions (and they are more than willing to ignore restrictions on those powers and litigate them later if they have to.) These "frivolous" lawsuits could be a very useful way to ensure that a gerrymandered Republican congress can exercise its veto power without having to deal with some president coming along and using another branch of government which he controls to advance his agenda.



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