Writing about Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) stunning primary defeat last week, I warned Democrats that the House majority leader’s loss was as much a wake-up call for them as it was for the GOP. Well, now I want to warn them about a very real possibility: President Obama will be impeached if the Democrats lose control of the U.S. Senate.
Yeah, yeah, I read Aaron Blake’s astute piece in The Post on the impeachment process. He says “probably not” to the question of whether the House could impeach Obama. But “probably” is not “definitely.” And with the way the impeachment talk has gone, “probably not” could become “absolutely” if the Senate flips to the Republicans.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) became the latest to openly discuss impeaching the president. In response to a question from a radio host on Monday, the two-term congressman who was swept in during the tea party wave of 2010, said, Obama is “just absolutely ignoring the Constitution and ignoring the laws and ignoring the checks and balances.” Articles of impeachment, he added, “probably could” pass in the House.
In a later interview, Barletta said one of the reasons he wouldn’t vote for impeachment was because a Democrat-controlled Senate would never convict the Democrat president. Blake also mentions this parenthetically in his piece. Others who have talked about impeachment point to this as the reason not to pursue the extraordinary political rebuke.
Last August at a town hall meeting, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) cited the Senate as a reason for not pursuing impeachment. “If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it,” he said in response to a constituent upset about “the fraudulent birth certificate of Barack Obama” and who wanted him punished. “But it would go to the Senate and he wouldn’t be convicted.” A week later, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was asked, “Why don’t we impeach him [Obama]?” His answer was similar to Farenthold’s. “It’s a good question,” the freshman senator said, “and I’ll tell you the simplest answer: To successfully impeach a president you need the votes in the U.S. Senate.”
Actually, impeachment is a two-step process that starts in the House. All it takes is a simple majority of that chamber to approve a single article of impeachment against the president for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Once that happens, a president is forever branded as having been impeached. President Andrew Johnson (1868) and President Bill Clinton (1998) share that distinction. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the full House could vote to impeach him.
To officially remove a president from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict him on those articles of impeachment. Johnson and Clinton were not convicted. Obama could share the same or worse fate. A Republican-controlled Senate could lead to Obama becoming the third president impeached and the first ever to be removed from office.
I don’t make this prediction lightly. The tea party-infused GOP has done things many once believed impossible. I’m thinking specifically about the two instances it brought the nation and the world to the brink of economic ruin because of its resistance to raising the debt ceiling. If Republicans are willing to ignore their leadership and jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States, there really is nothing they aren’t willing to do. And a Republican takeover of the Senate would only embolden them.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep repeating it until the message sinks in for Democrats inclined to sit out the midterms: Obama is not on the ballot in November, but Obama is on the ballot in November. Democrats have it in their power to keep the Senate and save the Obama presidency from the all-but-certain asterisk of impeachment. Whether they use it is a very real concern.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj