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John Boehner Says His Lawsuit Against Barack Obama Isn't About Impeachment. Don't Believe Him.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

John Boehner is going to sue Barack Obama.1 He's just not sure about what yet.

"When I make that decision I'll let you know," he told reporters in his weekly Capitol briefing Wednesday. He also insists it's "not about impeachment," but rather that "the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country, and on behalf of the institution and our Constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress."

But the fact that he hasn't decided which laws the president isn't faithfully executing, or which of those ill-executed laws merits legal action—not to mention his indifference to executive overreach during the Bush years—all pretty much give the game away. This really isn't about the integrity of the legislature, and in a way, it really is about impeachment.

Having created a clamor within the GOP conference, and the conservative base, over Obama's use of executive power, Republicans now must satisfy the consequent appetite to do something about it. Suing Obama is the something they've picked. The goal is to be head-turning enough to simultaneously address coalition management obligations—calm restive conservatives, keep the base energized—and serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment.

The risk is that it'll whet rather than diminish the right's appetite for impeachment. But Boehner doesn't have much choice. You can't gin up this much outrage over Obama's actions, and then do nothing to stop him, when the Constitution provides you so many tools to do just that.

  1. The suit will actually be on behalf of the House of Representatives, not of John Boehner himself.