The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to sue President Obama over his decision to delay the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. A New York congressman and his opponent offer differing views about the importance of the matter.
Congressman Chris Gibson was one of 225 Republicans who voted in favor of the lawsuit.
“And look, regardless of what party one’s in, this is in the best interest for our country,” says Gibson.
No Democrats supported the resolution to sue and five Republicans voted against the move. Gibson says the lawsuit is not solely about implementation of a portion of the health care legislation.
“We have seen the accumulation of power into the executive branch, particularly since the advent of the nuclear age. And we have seen presidents from both political parties overreach and overstep the original design of our political framework,” Gibson says. “So, this is really what the case, in my view, is all about; it’s about getting a precedent, about getting a landmark Supreme Court decision.”
Gibson’s Democratic opponent in the 19th district, Sean Eldridge, says congressional work should be focused elsewhere.
“This is literally the least productive Congress in the history of our country. They’re not working to rebuild our infrastructure. They’re not raising the minimum wage or dealing with comprehensive immigration reform,” Eldridge says. “They’re instead focused on political gimmicks, like suing the president, in order to score political points.”
“And it’s very frustrating that our congressman, Chris Gibson, was one of the Republicans to vote for this lawsuit,” says Eldridge. “We will hear throughout this campaign and in this fall Chris Gibson touting himself as a moderate, No Labels, representative for our area, but then he joins John Boehner and extreme Republicans in voting to waste taxpayer dollars to sue the president.”
Gibson differs on the definition of extreme, saying a call for impeachment is an extreme and futile way to go. Gibson defends against any criticism that says the lawsuit is a waste of time and resources. He says he has been working on balancing the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government since 2011.
“But as far as this particular vote, it didn’t take a lot of preparation. It was really just took some reading of some files and what not, and not being lawyer, now that we have advanced the case, I’m not going to be involved in that. I’m back up on task and all these issues that I’m working for the district. It’s growing the economy, fighting Lyme disease, expanding broadband, getting us resources to recover from the storm and prepare going forward. That’s where the priority is,” says Gibson. “But I also think it’s important for all of us that we establish a Supreme Court decision that brings back in balance the executive/legislative branch.”
And here’s Eldridge.
“When I talk to voters and families throughout all 165 towns, 11 counties of New York 19, their top priority is not suing President Obama,” says Eldridge. “Their top priority is getting a good education for their child, finding a job, making sure that we protect our air and our water and prevent things like fracking in our region. And I think it’s really frustrating that this Congress is focused on political lawsuits.”
Gibson explains why time was spent on bringing forth the lawsuit.
“There have been eight times since 1973 when members of Congress have sued the president of the United States for noncompliance with the War Powers resolution,” Gibson explains. “And that includes six times when the Congress has sued a Republican president and two times when the Congress has sued a Democratic president, and all eight times the Supreme Court threw it out, they did not take on the case.”
Gibson says that’s why Republicans voted to sue as a House, rather than have an individual member of Congress sue with support from some colleagues.
Eldridge says he supports having a conversation about the balance of power between the branches.
“But I don’t think we should be putting that in front of getting people to work, dealing with our infrastructure, getting this Congress to pass anything that might actually get through the Senate and be signed by the president to make life better for families,” says Eldridge.
Gibson argues that the ultimate goal of the lawsuit would make life better for families, in taming the power of the executive branch. New York's 19th Congressional District stretches across 11 counties.