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In Kansas City, Obama Brushes Off House GOP's Vote To Sue Him


The House and Senate are scheduled to leave today for their August recess, which is really a month of campaigning as the midterm elections get closer. The lawmakers are leaving a lot of unfinished business behind but what did happen on Capitol Hill yesterday is likely to be used by both sides to drum up votes. House Republicans voted to authorize a lawsuit against President Obama. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has more.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: When President Obama took the stage yesterday at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City Missouri, he was loose and playful with the crowd and he had a lot to say about Congress.


BARACK OBAMA: They haven't been that helpful. They have not been as constructive as I would've hoped.

KEITH: A young Bob Hope performed in that same theater in 1928 when he was an unknown comedian. And at times, it seemed like the president was in the midst of a standup routine, rather than a speech about the economy, especially when beating up on the legislative branch.


OBAMA: We could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit.


OBAMA: Just come on. Come on and help out a little bit. Stop being mad all the time.

KEITH: The very friendly crowd roared with approval.

OBAMA: Stop just - stop just hating all the time. Come on. Let's get some work done together.

KEITH: A few hours later, the House did pass a bipartisan bill aimed at helping the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. And just last week the president signed a bipartisan job-training bill. But those accomplishments aren't getting as much attention as the totally one-sided vote late yesterday by House Republicans to authorize House Speaker John Boehner to sue the president.


JOHN BOEHNER: Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?

KEITH: Boehner spoke on the House floor in favor of the resolution.

BOEHNER: Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?

KEITH: Some have theorized that the speaker is moving forward with the lawsuit to give House Republicans political cover back in their districts. Go to a town hall meeting in any congressional district in the country and the chances are quite good somebody will ask about impeaching the president. Boehner has essentially ruled that out, but suing the president will allow House Republicans to say they're doing something. On the House floor yesterday it was all about the Constitution. Pete Sessions is a Republican from Texas.


CONGRESSMAN PETE SESSIONS: Rather than faithfully executing the law as the Constitution requires, I believe that the president has selectively enforced the law in some instances, ignored the law in other instances and in a few cases unilaterally attempted to change the law all together.

OBAMA: They're mad because I'm doing my job.

KEITH: President Obama in Kansas City made it clear he wasn't taking the lawsuit seriously.


OBAMA: And by the way, I've told them - I've said, I'd be happy to do it with you. So the only reason I'm doing it on my own is because you don't do anything.

KEITH: President Obama's approval rating is stuck in the low forties but that's glowing compared to how Americans feel about Congress. Making it an easy punch-line, President Obama said everyone knows the lawsuit is a political stunt. It's one Republicans and Democrats alike are taking all the way to the bank. After last night's vote fundraising emails flew in to inboxes within minutes. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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