U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., isn’t the first, nor will he be the last, Democrat to warn that Republicans are aiming to impeach President Barack Obama.
So when the 6th District congressman expressed that far-fetched notion on Tuesday during a roundtable discussion in Columbia, it came as no surprise.
After all, even the White House has been making that scare-tactic pitch about the consequences if voters strengthen the GOP’s hand on Capitol Hill in November.
Clyburn cited the GOP House’s recent party-line vote to sue the president for allegedly exceeding his constitutional authority as an ominous sign. As the No. 3 Democrat in the House put it:
“More and more people are admitting that this lawsuit is precursor to impeachment. If the Republicans maintain control of the House, Barack Obama will be impeached. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.”
So which Republicans are advocating impeachment? Not House Speaker John Boehner. Not Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Indeed, not anybody anywhere near a GOP leadership position in either chamber of Congress.
Yes, the House lawsuit is likely a politically misguided exercise in futility. However, the long-shot legal action is limited to asking a federal court to require that the president enforce – and obey – the nation’s laws.
And you need not be a Republican, nor favor impeachment of the president, to be troubled by his many constitutionally suspect end runs around the legislative branch.
For instance, Jonathan Turley, a high-profile scholar and self-described liberal who says he voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, told MSNBC: “He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws, like immigration laws. He has effectively rewritten laws through the active interpretation that I find very problematic.”
And Turley correctly wrote last week in The Washington Post that the theory of the GOP House lawsuit serving as prelude to impeachment “is primarily coming from the White House and its allies as they try to rally the Democratic base ahead of the midterms.”
Turley added: “House Speaker John Boehner has done everything short of hiring blimps to say that there will be no impeachment. Obama is as likely to be impeached as he is to be installed as the next pontiff. And I say that as someone who has testified in Congress that this president has violated federal laws, unconstitutionally appointed various executive-branch officers and improperly transferred money.”
So no, despite overwrought Democratic alarms to the contrary, Republicans won’t impeach the president if they retain a House majority – or if they also regain control of the Senate.
But if the president persists in playing fast and loose with the Constitution, at some point even federal lawmakers in his own party might demand a return of their fair share of checks-and-balances power.