No, states can't actually impeach U.S. presidents. But Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are urging Congress to take up their cause. Reuters reports the Republican-denominated state legislature filed a measure Thursday calling for Obama's impeachment over the administration's recent recommendations that public schools accommodate transgender students in bathrooms.
Lawmakers argue the president overstepped his constitutional authority with that directive. The White House directive was "bibically wrong," state Rep. John Bennett (R) said in a statement, according to Reuters, adding that it violated state's sovereignty.
The impeachment call came hours after Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill that would make abortions a felony and put anyone who performs them in jail for up to three years. If Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, signs the bill into law, Oklahoma can expect a big legal fight in which its pretty much guaranteed to fail, given Roe v. Wade. (The governor late Friday decided to veto the bill.)
The impeachment push is similarly doomed and therefore highly symbolic. But before we get to that, here's some background: Oklahoma is not the first state to demand the president step down. South Dakota's Republican Party approved a resolution in 2014 calling for Obama's impeachment after the Guantanamo Bay detainee swap to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Other GOP politicians, like Sarah Palin, have also essentially called for the president to step down. At one point in 2014, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) even mused that House had the votes to do it.
But powerful GOP members of Congress -- from former House speaker John Boehner (Ohio) to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) -- have poured cold water on that idea, saying it would be a waste of time. Impeachment proceedings have "no chance of succeeding," McCain said in 2014, especially since the Senate was in Democratic hands at the time.
Today, Republicans control both chambers. There still doesn't seem to be much appetite on the Hill for impeachment, though, and that's the main reason it won't happen.
But for arguments sake, let's say that, hypothetically, both chambers were spurred to action by Oklahoma's resolution Friday and started the impeachment proceedings. History tells us it would probably still be a waste of time, less because of the makeup of Congress and moreso because Obama will probably be out of office long before and proceedings could get underway.
The House has only voted to impeach two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, and the Senate acquitted both. (Richard M. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.)
Let's focus on the Clinton case, which is a situation more closely applicable to modern politics. From the offending incident, to public outcry about it, to an investigation into it, to the House vote to impeach Clinton for it, three and a half years passed. No, really. Here's a timeline.
There's no hard-and-fast rule impeachments have to take that long. But Clinton's impeachment timeline underscores that these proceedings are drawn-out, complicated, convoluted and incredibly serious affairs. Even if the political will were there to impeach Obama today, it's very, very unlikely it would actually get done in the 122 246 days he has left in office.
So for the second time this week, Oklahoma lawmakers will be doing something with almost zero practical purpose -- but make a statement in doing it.