The Case for Standing: Boehner’s Lawsuit

The primary issue in Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama is that of standing. Opponents argue that it will be difficult for the House to prove it has been personally harmed by the President’s inaction as an institution. However, John Malcom and Elizabeth Slattery of The Heritage Foundation argue that the case for standing is rooted in the House demonstrating, “to a court’s satisfaction that as an institution, it has been personally harmed by President Obama’s actions, which have effectively nullified the votes of its members, leaving it little recourse to rectify this injustice without court intervention.

The Heritage Foundation legal memo begins by analyzing political question doctrine; the Court’s unwillingness to interfere in disputes between the other branches. It states, “If the House chooses to file a lawsuit against President Obama, it will face what may prove to be an insurmountable hurdle in establishing standing.”


But as Speaker Bohner argued in his own memo, “When there is a failure on the part of the president to faithfully execute the law, the House has the authority to challenge this failure in the Judicial Branch by filing suit in Federal Court in situations in which:

  • There is no one else who can challenge the president’s failure, and harm is being done to the general welfare and trust in faithful execution of our laws;
  • There is no legislative remedy; and
  • There is explicit House authorization for the lawsuit, through a vote authorizing the litigation against the president’s failure.”


The Heritage Foundation memo observes that the problem is, “Obama has pushed the limits of this duty, acting unilaterally to change or ignore the law. From refusing to abide by statutory deadlines, waiving requirements written into laws that he does not like, . . . President Obama has not been shy about circumventing Congress and essentially rewriting laws.


House Republicans are receiving support from Republican Senators on this issue. Senator Ted Cruz said of the lawsuit, “It is terrific that the House of Representatives is trying to hold President Obama accountable for his lawlessness. One of the most disturbing patterns of the Obama administration has been the president’s consistent disregard for the law.”


Speaker Bohner concludes his memo saying, “I believe the House must act as an institution to defend the constitutional principles at stake and to protect our system of government and our economy from continued executive abuse. The president has an obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our country.”