When the Republican-led House voted to sue President Barack Obama in July over what the GOP considered his excessive application of executive authority, particularly in repeatedly delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it made a big splash. Nearly four months later, however, not much has happened. Some on the left assured themselves that delay was a result of confusion on the part of those who might represent Republicans in court over whether there was a basis to bring this lawsuit.
On Tuesday, however, that narrative changed. House Republicans hired constitutional lawyer and left-leaning scholar Jonathan Turley to represent them in their effort to force the president – a former constitutional scholar himself – to abide by the constraints placed on his power in the nation’s founding document.
“As many on this blog are aware, I have previously testified, written, and litigated in opposition to the rise of executive power and the countervailing decline in congressional power in our tripartite system,” Turley wrote on his blog. “I have also spent years encouraging Congress, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, to more actively defend its authority, including seeking judicial review in separation of powers conflicts.”
“For that reason, it may come as little surprise this morning that I have agreed to represent the United States House of Representatives in its challenge of unilateral, unconstitutional actions taken by the Obama Administration with respect to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” he continued. “It is an honor to represent the institution in this historic lawsuit and to work with the talented staff of the House General Counsel’s Office.”
Turley is no conservative. He was a favorite of the liberal media during George W. Bush’s presidency, as he could be consistently counted on to deliver stinging indictments of the president’s conduct. Turley’s decision to prosecute the case against Barack Obama, a president for whom he twice voted, carries with it no less moral authority than did John Adams’s decision to stand in defense of those British soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre. Turley’s action demonstrates that noble principle can still triumph over tribal political concerns.
This development should have the effect of reaffirming the right’s waning confidence in America’s constitutional tradition. There are still men of good faith and intellectual honesty who are capable of putting aside their partisan political preferences in service to the preservation of the republic.