Boehner Says House Republicans Likely To Sue Obama Over Immigration

Get ready for another pointless House lawsuit against the President.


House Speaker John Boehner is telling his fellow Republicans that the Leadership is working on a resolution to authorize another lawsuit against the Obama Administration, this time over the President’s executive action on immigration that was announced in November:

Speaker John Boehner is finalizing a plan to sue President Obama again, this time over the administration’s decision to grant work visas to millions of undocumented immigrants.

Boehner told his conference at a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has a team exploring the best options to challenge last year’s executive action, under which the Homeland Security Department will begin granting legal working status to millions of immigrants, according to sources in the room.

“Our team has been working on litigation. We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue—one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” he said, according to a source in the room.

The move toward a lawsuit comes as the GOP’s legislative options to target the president’s policies are waning. The House passed a bill funding DHS that contained provisions rolling back Obama’s executive action and other administrative relaxations of immigration enforcement, including deferred action for childhood arrivals, otherwise known as Dreamers. But the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where the immigration-related measures are thought not to have the requisite Democratic support to exceed the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

If the bill comes back to the House with less-stringent measures targeting the White House’s immigration policy — or, indeed, none at all — it is unclear that it can pass the chamber. So challenging the president in venue other than the Capitol could assuage GOP House members who have said unequivocally that they do not want to move any other immigration measures until the president’s actions are dealt with.

It is unclear whether a congressional lawsuit would also challenge the deferred action for childhood arrivals policy, which has already put off deportation for more than a half- million undocumented immigrants. The House would have to vote on a resolution authorizing legal action, and that could come in the form of its own lawsuit, or in the form of joining an existing suit challenging Obama’s actions.

A House lawsuit, if it is indeed filed would join at least two others that have been filed in the month and a half since President Obama announced what essentially amounts to an expansion of 2012’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals over the objection of Congressional Republicans, who contend that the President is acting outside the range of his authority. One suit was filed by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and that suit has already been dismissed by a Federal District Court Judge and is presumably headed to the appropriate Court of Appeals. A second suit, currently pending in a Federal Court in Texas, was filed by Texas and sixteen other states. Additionally, the House has already filed suit against the President on matters related to the implementation to the Affordable Care Act. Both of those cases are in the early stages of litigation, and it is likely to be some time before there are final rulings in any of them for quite some time. In the meantime, the deportation relief that the President announced is set to start going into effect in the coming months.

Of course, a House lawsuit against the Administration over immigration would face the same legal hurdles that the Obamacare lawsuit does, namely the question of whether the House of Representatives even has standing to sue the President over a policy decision such as this. As I noted when the House lawsuit was first being discussed, it is exceedingly likely that Federal Courts will find that the House of Representatives as an institution lacks standing to sue the President over a policy decision. In that case, we were talking mainly about the President’s decision, as expressed through the Department of Health and Human Services, to extend the amount of time that employers had to comply with the PPACA’s coverage mandate. In this case, the issue concerns the exercise of executive discretion in the implementation of deportation relief for certain classes of immigrants under the nation’s immigration laws. In both cases, of course, Congress contends that the President lacks authority to take the executive action in question, but before the Federal Courts get to that issue they will likely be asked to decide if the case is even properly before them to begin with. Based on the current state of law on standing Federal Courts, which I discussed at length in this post, the argument that Congress as a whole has any more standing than an individual Member of Congress does, and the Courts have consistently held that they have no standing at all. In any case, as I’ve noted before, it will take at least a year or two for the standing issue to make its way through the Federal Courts before it is finally resolved in any case, and it would take at least as long after that for the ultimate issues in the case to be resolved assuming that the Courts found that Congress did have standing.

What all this demonstrates, of course, is that Republicans are quickly discovering that they have very few options when it comes to challenging the Presidents executive action on immigration. The idea of holding the budget of the Department of Homeland Security hostage until the President relents seems to be falling apart in the face of the reality that any legislation that would “defund” those parts of the department that would implement the policy will not make it past a Senate filibuster, and would be vetoed by the President if it did, Additionally, the recent uptick in terrorist activity in Europe makes it exceedingly unlikely that the GOP is going to be able to get away with holding off on funding for DHS for very much longer in any case. Much like the Obamacare lawsuit, then, this proposed lawsuit is essentially the House Leadership’s efforts to placate the base of the GOP. The lawsuit itself is unlikely to succeed, but that’s not really why Speaker Boehner is talking about filing it in any case.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    There is a far simpler solution than a frivolous lawsuit…which Republicans claim to abhor unless, of course, it’s their frivolous lawsuit…PASS A FRIGGIN’ BILL.

    Republicans are fighting against any kind of immigration rights.
    Jindal is talking about an anti-gay rights amendment.
    And Republicans are alienating Jews with their ill-advised campaigning for Netanyahu.

    Have they decided the way to win elections is to alienate every one but white christian straight rich people?

  2. al-Ameda says:

    I for one, am really pleased to see that Republicans have decided to move in a direction of bi-partisan cooperation.

  3. legion says:

    He didn’t do this in the run-up to the elections because it would have been a huge embarrassment to see how quickly this got slapped down by the courts. But the red-meat base, which has never been good at grasping the concept that “wanting it real bad” doesn’t make something legal or constitutional, is still demanding “action”. So now that it’s safe to look stupid again,. Boehner can endorse this shitshow.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Much like the Obamacare lawsuit, then, this proposed lawsuit is essentially the House Leadership’s efforts to placate the base of the GOP.

    So the GOP is going to pay for this complete waste of time, money, and effort?


    Fiscal conservatives my a$$.

  5. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: How much money do you think this lawsuit costs? Of all grounds to criticize it on, fiscal irresponsibility seems like an awfully odd choice.

  6. Tony W says:

    @Pinky: What’s the opportunity cost for Congress to avoid solving the real problems facing America so they can do this stuff? They could be cutting the military budget, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, catching up to Europe/Japan of the 1980s and implementing advanced public transportation and health care. Instead we’re half-heartedly debating about how many brown people we want to allow into the country.

  7. KM says:


    How much money do you think this lawsuit costs?

    Realistically or ideologically?

    Ideologically, a single penny wasted on a futile effort, one that they know is worthless but done to “make someone happy”, is unacceptable if you believe in curtailing government waste and fiscal responsibility. A massive garbage pile is made up of small individual pieces people threw out – it only became a huge stinking pile because of the compilation of thousands of small bits of waste. If the GOP is true to its principles, they wouldn’t purse a pointless path on the money it wastes alone and would seek a better, viable option. You can’t whine about the debt if you keep gleefully adding to it.

    Realistically? Whatever the lawyers think they can get away with. And trust me, they’re be pushing and padding this one for all its worth. This lawsuit is going to make some people (Beltway lawyers and sycophants) rich while making the rest of us poorer – fiscal responsibility is absolutely grounds to complain about this as a tax payer.

  8. C. Clavin says:


    How much money do you think this lawsuit costs?

    Well…the lawsuit over delayed Obamacare deadlines was going to cost $500 an hour up to a $350,000 cap. No really so much…until you consider that the House won’t vote to raise the minimum wage to $10.
    There is hypocrisy at play on many levels here…fiscal hypocrisy is only one.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Have they decided the way to win elections is to alienate every one but white christian straight rich people males?

    Sorry, but that didn’t seem quite right. Fixed it.

  10. Mu says:

    If the judge throws out the suit for lack of standing, can we make the Republicans pay back the tax payers’ money they wasted for something lacking a legal basis?

  11. KM says:

    @Mu :

    If the judge throws out the suit for lack of standing, can we make the Republicans pay back the tax payers’ money they wasted for something lacking a legal basis?

    Tort reform, but not the kind they were thinking of. That should absolutely be law that if Congress wants to play in the courts like this, it’s with their own personal money – no donations, no fundraisers and no tax payer anything. If nothing else, it will make damn sure thery’re willing to stake it all on the lawsuit and thus is a put up or shut up. And they’re personally liable for the damages if judgement is leveled against them if the President countersues.

    Let’s do this. Maybe it will make them consider actually doing their job rather then bothering the other two branches…..

  12. Tillman says:

    Boehner’s attached another key to his chain to dangle in front of the dumber caucus members, it seems.

    I really do feel bad for the guy. Finally gets to be Speaker, has to spend 90% of his time herding cats.

  13. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    the Republican Congress was sent to Washington with one mission : stop the crazy Kenyan usurper in the White House from “ruining America” , which they define as passing any legislation that might affect their privileged status. Now that’s a totally different goal from passing legislation to deal with the nation’s problems. That’s Washington Beltway talk that’s totally irrelevant , if not antithetical to the goals of the Republican base, and frankly I think everyone (including the OP) knows thIs, however often they mouth platitudes about the Republicans being required to now show that they can “govern.” To be blunt, you have to be kind of a wishful thinker to believe the Republicans are even interested in governing, if governing means compromising with Congressional Democrats and the President to pass useful legislation. Those in the know understand that the Republican base will if anything, reward Republicans for “not governing.”
    As far as immigration reform is concerned, the majority of Congressional Republicans see their job as blocking immigration reform, not passing it. That should be as clear as day to anyone who pays the least attention to Congressional politics. The rest of the electorate will gradually catch up to that, which means that in the 2016 elections virtually anyone interested in immigration reform will be voting to replace Republicans with Democrats. Hopefully, that will be enough to change things by creating a wave election that will return the House and the Senate to the Democrats. If not Immigration Reform will have to wait for the 2020 elections and redistricting. It’s just that simple.

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Red meat theater for the base – installment # 1,877,504 – coming soon to a television set near you!

  15. Scott F. says:


    To be blunt, you have to be kind of a wishful thinker to believe the Republicans are even interested in governing, if governing means compromising with Congressional Democrats and the President to pass useful legislation.

    It goes beyond that, I think. In the case of immigration reform, the House Republicans are keenly aware they can’t even pass a bill that has no chance of getting through a Senate filibuster or Presidential veto. You know the GOP House knows how to pass symbolic bills that will never become law – they’ve passed dozens of bills to repeal Obamacare, so they’ve gotten pretty good at the toothless gesture.

    But, the symbolic, no-chance-to-pass immigration bill that would appease their base – the Deport Them All Act of 2015? That bill would make the GOP poison to all but their rump base, as the Wall Street faction of the Republican Party wants the immigrant labor.

    The status quo is the only outcome that works for the holding the GOP coalition together on immigration.

  16. LaMont says:


    I still think it’ll be really tough to flip the House in 2016. At the rate the Republicans are going, flipping the senate is almost a foregone conclusion. I believe the 2018 mid-term elections will be most important for any possibility to reshape the gerrymandered districts in the House. Unfortunately, only the crazies appear to vote in those elections. If there is a better voting turn-out in 2018 than what was in 2014, and the 2020 election stays on par for the Democrats, then we will likely have a shot at reshaping the districts in my estimation. .