Town Hall Roundup, Week 2.5: Impeachment, NSA and Obamacare
Time for the next installment in CQ Roll Call’s coverage of the town halls of August — impeachment edition.
Since we last checked in, at least two members have raised the specter of impeaching President Barack Obama.
In speaking with constituents on Aug. 10 about Obama and lingering fears that he wasn’t born in the United States, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said that while, in the House, “you could probably get the votes” for impeachment, it probably wasn’t a good idea to go through with it, given it would be a non-starter in the Senate.
Then, on Tuesday, GOP freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan told constituents it would be a “dream come true” to impeach Obama — but at the moment he doesn’t have the evidence.
“Until we have evidence, you’re going to become a laughingstock if you’ve submitted the bill to impeach the president because number one, you’ve got to convince the press,” he explained. “There are some people out there no matter what Obama does he’s still the greatest president they’ve ever had. That’s what you’re fighting.”
But it doesn’t mean Bentivolio hasn’t explored his options.
“I went back to my office and I’ve had lawyers come in,” he continued. “These are lawyers, Ph.D.s in history, and I said, ‘Tell me how I can impeach the president of the United States.’”
Exactly what the lawmakers would impeach the president for wasn’t immediately apparent.
Elsewhere in Michigan, another Republican, Rep. Justin Amash, held a town hall event on Aug. 14. There, he accused House GOP leaders of preventing rank-and-file lawmakers from receiving pertinent information about National Security Agency surveillance activities, specifically the blanket collection of telephone records that has recently come to light following leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“We would go to congressional briefings, and they’ll talk about the Patriot Act, for example, in pretty plain terms,” said Amash, according to local news reports. “But they won’t tell you about the uses of the Patriot Act.”
Amash, who has made targeting NSA practices he deems too invasive his most recent cause, also reportedly said that a recently declassified memo from 2011 shone light on the NSA activities currently under extra scrutiny, but it was at the time only made available to members of the House Intelligence Committee.
And the politics of Obamacare have also continued to rage at town hall meetings this month, specifically whether House Republicans should refuse to vote for any must-pass legislation — like a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30, when current appropriations expire — unless it includes language to strip funding from the 2010 health care law.
Another Texas Republican, Rep. Louie Gohmert, spoke at an event sponsored by a conservative local group called We The People-Longview, where he slammed his party’s leaders on Tuesday for not risking a government shutdown at the end of next month as leverage for defunding the Affordable Care Act — though Speaker John A. Boehner stated before Congress departed for the August recess that “no decisions have been made.”
“Our leadership is scared to death,” Gohmert said, according to reporting by the Longview News-Journal. “They think if we have a shutdown, or a big showdown, we may lose the majority … and they will lose their leadership positions.
“What does it say about Republicans if we’re not willing to stand up for what we know is best for the country?” he continued.
But in Illinois, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said that a government shutdown over the health care law would without a doubt jeopardize the Republican majority in 2014.
“Potentially there will be a collapse of will to keep the government shut down because soldiers are not getting paid, and all this other stuff’s happening, and we turn around and lose 10-20 seats in 2014,” Kinzinger reportedly told attendants of a meeting hosted by the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “And whether we win the battle or not, we’ve lost the war because Nancy Pelosi’s speaker of the House.”
Though not in a town-hall-type forum, GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also had an opportunity to confront her allies and her foes on Obamacare the other day when protests on both sides of the issue erupted near her Franklin office.
At one point, according to The Tennessean, Blackburn emerged from her office and, standing in between the two factions, addressed the group in measured tones:
“We all share the same goal of increasing access to healthcare, but we have a very different philosophy of how to achieve that goal. They would prefer a government-centered approach. I prefer an approach that puts the patient at the center and allows them to make the choices that are best for them and their family.”
“It’s the law, it’s the law,” they cried — and one of them handed her a copy of said law.