The Corner

Obama’s Ex-Lawyer: Boehner Can Defund Obama, Not Sue Him

The attorney who advised President Obama to circumvent Congress with an array of executive orders disputed House speaker John Boehner’s right to challenge those maneuvers in court, but she did acknowledge that the House has the authority to defund those initiatives.

Kathryn Ruemmler’s comments came just months after she worked with Obama during a government shutdown over whether Congress would defund Obamacare. “Congress has a lot of tools available to it to challenge the president if they disagree to the things that he’s doing,” Ruemmler, who stepped down as White House counsel in May, said on Meet the Press. “Most importantly, the power of the purse. But, you know, a lawsuit, to say it’s frivolous I think is an understatement.”

“The power of the purse” — that was the conservative argument for why it was appropriate for the House to pass a spending bill that funded all of government except for the Affordable Care Act.

“The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, the most important check we have on an overreaching executive,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), one of the advocates for attempting to defund Obamacare, in August. “Now is the best chance we have to exercise this power in order to defund Obamacare.”

Ruemmler was an important part of “helping develop options to carry out Mr. Obama’s decision to take unilateral executive actions to bypass congressional inaction,” according to the New York Times’ Charlie Savage.

“She advised Mr. Obama that he could make recess appointments during a Senate vacation in 2012 even though the Senate was holding ‘pro forma’ sessions to avoid a formal recess, arguing that if the courts disagreed, the presidency would most likely be no worse off than if Mr. Obama did not challenge the tactic, officials said,” Savage wrote.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that those so-called “recess appointments” were unconstitutional. The defeat was Obama’s twelfth unanimous loss at the Supreme Court since January 2012.

“Not every case in which the president has exceeded his authority has made it all the way to the Supreme Court,” Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) a former law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito, told National Review Online. “The fact that his track record is as bad as it is in the Supreme Court . . . is yet another indication of the fact that we’ve got a president who is playing fast and loose with the Constitution.”

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