Exactly one handful of the 233 Republican members of the House voted against suing President Obama on Thursday.
Reps. Paul Broun (Ga.), Steve Stockman (Texas), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Scott Garrett (N.J.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) all broke ranks with Speaker John Boehner's bid to take Obama to court over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
But it's not that these five defectors have a soft spot for the president – most of them don't think a lawsuit is enough.
Broun is one of the most conservative members of the House G.O.P. and ran hard to the right in a failed bid for the Senate earlier this year. He has publicly backed impeaching Obama and said in February there would be "good reason" for the House to do so, citing the president's executive actions, his handling of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and his "lying" about Obamacare.
His spokeswoman, Christine Hardman, said in a statement that Broun voted against the lawsuit in part because it is "doomed for death in the Senate," which is a curious statement considering that the lawsuit was a simple resolution authorizing House action that doesn't need approval from the Senate. Hardman added that Broun "would rather see House leadership work towards practical solutions which would shrink the size and scope of government and cut wasteful federal spending when it comes to stopping the president’s gross overreach of executive power."
Stockman is another well-known firebrand who challenged conservative Sen. John Cornyn (R) in a primary from the right earlier this year. Cornyn crushed him, but during the campaign he circulated a "citizens petition to impeach Obama."
In a statement posted to his Facebook page Thursday, Stockman predicted the lawsuit would be thrown out because of previous rulings that the House does not have legal standing to sue the president for not enforcing the law.
Jones is ideologically hard to categorize — fiscally conservative but ardently anti-war. He is a frequent thorn in Boehner's side, however, and he denounced the lawsuit in a statement as an "act of political theater."
“This lawsuit is merely an act of political theater that is highly unlikely to result in any real consequences for an executive branch that continues to display a blatant disregard for the rule of law. While I strongly believe that the president must be held accountable for repeatedly ignoring the separation of powers and bypassing Congress to enact his liberal agenda, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit that is unlikely to ever make it to court is not the appropriate method to do so. Rather, the House should act with the tools provided to the legislature by the Constitution – the power of impeachment and the power of the purse.”
Massie is a conservative freshman and an ally of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A staunch Obama critic, he has at times criticized the G.O.P. establishment and his party leadership for its unwillingness to fight the president. In a statement to The Wire, Massie said he agreed that "the president must be held accountable for his lawlessness."
But the time, effort, and cost to the taxpayer could be more effectively spent. Perhaps Congress should instead use that time and effort to reassert its power of the purse – an explicit authority the Constitution gives Congress to keep the executive in check."
Garrett is another arch-conservative who occasionally votes against Boehner's wishes. His spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.