WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama for allegedly overstepping his powers, a move swiftly denounced by his Democratic allies as a cynical election-year stunt.
By a party-line vote of 225 to 201, the House voted to resort to the unprecedented move of taking the president to court for not having stringently followed the letter of the law while implementing his signature "Obamacare" health care reform bill.
The measure, which would empower House Speaker John Boehner to start the legal proceedings, is meant to rein in a president besotted by power, the top House Republican said from the floor of the chamber.
"This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised," Boehner said.
"Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute, and what laws to change?" Boehner told his fellow lawmakers that Obama violated the country's founding document by not adhering rigidly to the wording of the law when implementing the health reform law.
Obama, for his part, has been derisive in dismissing the suit, making it a punchline again during a speech in Kansas City, Missouri.
"Instead of suing me for doing my job, I want Congress to do its job and make life a little better for the Americans who sent them there in the first place," he said to cheers and applause from a supportive crowd.
"And by the way," he added, "you know who's paying for this suit they're going to file? You."
- 'Sickening' vote -
Lawmakers in Obama's Democratic party wasted no time decrying the vote.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi invoked her outrage over the vote, in a fundraising email sent to supporters late Wednesday.
"Just now, I watched Republicans vote for the first lawsuit against a President in US history," she wrote, in her appeal for donations.
"House Republicans took to the floor of the House and compared President Obama to a tyrant," Pelosi said.
"It's sickening. This is nothing but disgraceful politics - and total disrespect for our president."
The language of the measure accuses Obama of "executive overreach," and charges him with "failing to faithfully execute the law with respect to the implementation" of the law popularly known as "Obamacare." "This resolution seeks to protect Congress's constitutional prerogative and asks the court to fulfill its duty to guard the lines of separation" between the executive and legislative branches of government, it adds.
The move towards a lawsuit is the latest sign of extreme gridlock and discord in Washington, with the two major political parties constantly at loggerheads, and Obama and his congressional opponents unable to work together to pass and enact legislation.
The discord is heightened by the fact that mid-term elections to replace the entire House and a third of the US Senate are just a few months away.
The suit is seen by some analysts as a Republican strategy to pique the interest of voters who might otherwise be be unmotivated to go to the polls during November's legislative vote.