There's no shortage of House conservatives who think President Barack Obama has broken the law — or is simply not enforcing it. But none of these brash right-wingers slamming the president for executive overreach are stepping up to offer articles of impeachment. Why?
“Because it is unwise,” said Rep. Mo Brooks. The Alabama Republican was like many others CQ Roll Call attempted to pin down, and wouldn’t comment on whether he thinks the president deserves to be impeached. “It does not make any difference what I think,” Brooks said, identifying the major procedural hurdle facing any such effort — there is “no chance” the Senate would impeach the president.
Calling it a "moot point,” Brooks pulled out the Serenity Prayer from his wallet and read: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Similar sentiments came from even the most ardent anti-Obama flamethrowers, with Steve Stockman of Texas calling it a “futile endeavor.”
“Not going anywhere with the Senate,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. “It sucks all the air out of the room."
Even Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a few months ahead of her retirement, didn’t want to talk about impeachment, literally making a shooing motion with her hands when CQ Roll Call raised the question.
“You really think Harry Reid’s gonna take that up?” asked Matt Salmon of Arizona. “I mean, impeachment’s only half the battle. The big prize is conviction, and Harry Reid would never take that up. It’d be entirely futile.”
It’s not that Salmon thinks the president hasn’t committed impeachable offenses. “[Richard] Nixon and [Bill] Clinton look like schoolboys compared to this guy,” he said, but going after Obama in this manner would be “an incredible waste of time.”
Texas Republican Randy Weber has a solution, given he thinks the president “absolutely” deserved to be impeached: “Wait 'til after November.”
Senate Republicans are in a good position to win back the chamber and are optimistic with less than 100 days to go. Of course, no matter how the midterm elections shake out, Republicans are unlikely to have a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and any effort to impeach the president in that body would likely be just as futile in 2015 as it is in 2014. A recent CNN/ORC poll found 57 percent of Republicans think the president should be impeached, though only 33 percent of respondents overall agree.
The impeachment chatter started anew after Sarah Palin recently proclaimed her support for proceedings. Conservatives seem to be using the threat to ensure the president doesn’t issue any sweeping executive actions regarding the influx of Central American children crossing the border. The incoming House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, told Fox News over the weekend that Republicans shouldn’t take impeachment “off the table” if Obama issues an executive order on deportations.
But the political posturing is not translating to efforts to put proceedings on the floor, something any member could functionally get a vote on. Such a resolution, if drafted properly, is a question of privileges of the House, and leadership would have two days to schedule some sort of vote on the measure, most likely to table the motion or refer it to the Judiciary Committee. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich once attempted to impeach President George W. Bush, but Democrats controlling the House made sure the resolution was sent to committee and never heard from again.
“Our leadership is absolutely petrified that somebody may make that recommendation,” said Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who is on his way out after his loss in Georgia's Senate primary.
Instead, Republicans are channeling their energy into the House lawsuit against Obama scheduled to get a final vote this week ahead of August recess. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said the courts are "the best place to try to rein in what the executive branch is doing.”
Of course, it only takes one member to make a different calculation. And perhaps the best candidate for that math is Steve King of Iowa.
King told Breitbart News on July 26 that if the president issues an executive order granting refugee status to the children crossing the border from Central America, the House would "immediately" need to bring up impeachment proceedings.
Last week, King told CQ Roll Call the Founding Fathers had not envisioned a president could “transcend” congressional spending limitations, and said if you took this sort of activity back to the time of, “Oh, let’s say Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr,” no one could predict a president not living by his word.
Still, King thinks an impeachment path "isn’t particularly constructive.”
Or politically advantageous.
Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. of Tennessee recently noted that “good or bad, like it or not,” there was a political element in bringing forward impeachment proceedings, and that almost every political analyst believes “nothing would fire up the base of the Democrats more than an impeachment action.”
Duncan predicted, “And so if you want to help the Democrats keep control of the Senate, this would be one way to do it.”
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