In politically gridlocked Washington, both sides are frustrated. Each is basically blaming its failures on the opposition’s misuse of powers.
House Speaker John Boehner launched the latest round, seeking to halt President Barack Obama’s repeated use of executive actions to bypass congressional resistance to his “year of action.” Obama has revised procedures for his signature health care law that a normally functioning Congress should have fixed, granted amnesty to thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally, limited carbon emissions from power plants, and refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.
Boehner announced he will sue Obama on grounds that these actions are unconstitutional. Though it’s questionable he can win a legal struggle, his move illustrated Republican frustration over action or inaction by the Democratic Senate and administration blocking GOP initiatives like the repeal of Obamacare. It also headed off more rabid colleagues eager to start impeachment proceedings against Obama.
After all, unlike younger colleagues, Boehner was in the House when its 1998 drive to impeach President Bill Clinton backfired politically against the GOP.
This new exchange erupted at a time when three concurrent events reminded many of how things used to be -- or could be -- between the president and Congress.
First was the death at 88 of former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee. He epitomized the bipartisan cooperation that marked the Senate a generation ago.
Second was the Republican primary runoff in Mississippi. Veteran Sen. Thad Cochran defeated his tea party challenger by forming the kind of bipartisan coalition that is rare these days, attracting support from primarily Democratic African-Americans. It’s the kind of coalition Boehner has steadfastly rejected in the House.
Third was a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, formed by four ex-Senate majority leaders including Baker, proposing an array of mostly modest proposals to reduce polarization of the nation’s politics.