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“A Matter Of Routine”: The Republicans’ Lust For Impeachment

If you attack the president repeatedly for law-breaking, executive overreach and deceiving the public and Congress, do you have an obligation to impeach him? This is the logical question Republicans are now trying to duck.

There is a reason why impeachment is a big deal in Washington this week. It’s not just because a call to defend President Obama motivates the Democrats’ base, although it surely does. John Boehner is having trouble countering fears that House Republicans will eventually try to oust the president because the speaker’s colleagues have spent years tossing around impeachment threats as a matter of routine.

At issue are not merely the open demands for throwing Obama out from Sarah Palin, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) and many others on the right wing. The deeper problem lies in the proliferation of loose impeachment talk linked with one overheated anti-Obama charge after another.

As far back as May 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the allegation that the White House had offered then-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a job so he wouldn’t oppose Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, “is in fact a crime and could be impeachable.” (Sestak beat Specter in a primary and then lost to Republican Pat Toomey.)

During a hearing on “Operation Fast and Furious” in December 2011, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) accused the Justice Department of withholding information and said that “if we don’t get to the bottom of this,” Congress might have to resort to the “only one alternative” it had, “and it is called impeachment.” In this case, involving a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sting operation that went wrong, the impeachment threat was directed at Attorney General Eric Holder. Indeed, 20 House Republicans filed to impeach Holder.

In May 2013, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that, because of allegations of a White House Benghazi coverup, “people may be starting to use the I-word before too long” about Obama. Also in 2013, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) said it would be his “dream come true” to author Articles of Impeachment against the president, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the nation was “perilously close” to circumstances that might require impeachment.

Only space limitations prevent me from multiplying such examples.

Boehner claims that “this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill . . . trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election.”

But if impeachment is a sudden Democratic invention, why did the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer write a detailed news story in August 2013 under the headline: “Ignoring Qualms, Some Republicans Nurture Dreams of Impeaching Obama”? Why did my Washington Post colleague Dana Milbank publish an equally fact-rich column in December 2013 titled: “Republicans see one remedy for Obama — impeachment”?

Boehner’s other difficulty is that, in defending his lawsuit against Obama, which the House approved Wednesday on a near-party-line vote, the speaker has used arguments that could as easily be invoked to justify impeachment.

“In the end, the Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws,” Boehner wrote on CNN’s Web site in early July. “And, in my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education. There must be accountability.”

So what will Boehner do on behalf of “accountability” if the suit fails? Is it any surprise that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), when pressed on Sunday by Fox News’s Chris Wallace, declined to rule out impeachment?

Yes, Democrats are happy to use the danger that the House will go there, by way of dramatizing the GOP’s refusal to work with Obama on issue after issue and the right wing’s open hatred for a president they cast simultaneously as a power-hungry lawbreaker and a weak steward of the nation’s interests. But the underlying cause is a breakdown among conservatives of the norms and habits that governing requires in a system of separated powers.

The last time the country reelected a Democratic president, House Republicans impeached him despite strong public opposition. With many in the ranks already clamoring for a replay of those glory days, it’s fair to wonder if Boehner will hold fast and resist the impeachment crowd this time. His record in facing down his right wing is not encouraging.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another ‘Do Nothing’ Embarrassment”: House Fails To Pass Immigration Bill, Asks Obama To Act Alone

House Republicans pulled their embattled immigration legislation on Thursday, after failing to find enough Republicans to vote for the pared-down funding bill. The embarrassing defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) greatly increases the odds that the House will not do anything to act on the border crisis before leaving Washington for its August recess.

The Republican majority will hold a conference meeting at 3pm EST, after which House leaders will announce whether they will try again to hold a vote.

The House had planned to vote on two separate measures before leaving town: A $659 million funding bill to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border, and a bill that would bar President Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants temporary work permits and relief from deportation for some young immigrants. But House leaders failed to gather the 218 votes needed to move forward.

Ironically, Speaker Boehner — who, one day earlier, advanced his plan to sue President Obama for allegedly exceeding his authority with executive orders — urged President Obama to act alone on securing the border. In a statement, Boehner and fellow House leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), said:

This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.

The House’s failure to gather enough votes for the bill represents a huge defeat in the first legislative test for McCarthy, the new majority leader, and Scalise, the new whip. The pair were apparently outmaneuvered by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who reportedly met with more than a dozen House Republicans on Wednesday night to press them to oppose leadership’s bill.

Even if the House had passed either bill, neither would have had any chance of becoming law. The $659 million in the House bill fell far short of the $3.7 billion President Obama had requested to confront the the growing funding crisis at the border, as well as the $2.7 billion in the bill advanced by the Senate on Wednesday. Additionally, as David Rogers pointed out in Politico, the bill contained very little money for hiring additional immigration judges, and no money for legal representation for the children at the border. Instead, it focused on expediting the deportation process by mandating that children coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face a court hearing within a week of being screened by child welfare officials, and that the judge make a ruling within 72 hours of the end of the hearing.

The White House had vowed that President Obama would veto the House bill if it somehow reached his desk, saying in a statement that it “could make the situation worse, not better.”

The second bill, which would have barred President Obama from taking an executive action expanding DACA, existed purely to placate Tea Party conservatives who did not want to vote for leadership’s funding bill. As a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent before the vote, “If the House passed the DACA provision, it would go straight into the trash and never get a vote.”

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Not-So-Secret GOP Strategy For Everything”: Do Nothing, And Blame Obama

You almost have to feel sorry for House Speaker John Boehner. He’s taken on the task of crafting a punitive, stingy, self-contradictory GOP version of a bill to deal with the border crisis that most of his party wants to blame solely on President Obama. There’s no reward for that.

His apparent leadership rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, has been whipping Boehner’s members to oppose Boehner’s bill. As part of an attempted compromise, the speaker is going to let his members vote to end the president’s deferred action on deportations, even though they have no power to do that. But he wants to keep that issue separate from the border-crisis bill, and Cruz, the shadow speaker, is telling members to say no.

In the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol sides with Speaker Cruz. Passing Boehner’s bill, he says, will interfere with the GOP’s top priority – running up big election wins in November. The only reasonable GOP response to the border crisis is to do nothing – and blame Obama.

Now, it’s been obvious since early 2009 that this is the GOP agenda. Rarely, however, does any Republican lay bare the craven political logic behind the party’s anti-Obama obstructionism. But wrong-way Bill Kristol is no average guy. His inbred arrogance lets him treat thuggish political sabotage as political genius. He seems to think he’ll get his point across to House backbenchers if he speaks very slowly and enunciates.

Here’s how he spells it out:

If the GOP does nothing, and if Republicans explain that there’s no point acting due to the recalcitrance of the president to deal with the policies that are causing the crisis, the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won’t have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they’ll make. Republican challengers won’t have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president.

Get it? If they listen to Kristol, Republicans won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting associated with governing. Just vote with Speaker Ted Cruz, get back on the campaign trail to bash Obama, and all will be well.

While he’s at it, Kristol also backs up the Obama administration’s claim that the House GOP plan could make things worse at the border. Both sides seem to agree that Boehner’s bill is a mess. But that’s not the reason to kill it, Kristol argues. The reason to kill it is entirely political.

Boehner’s team seems to think that by passing a bad bill that will never become law anyway, Republicans will nonetheless get credit for trying to deal with the border mess, rather than just point fingers at the president. Kristol thinks Boehner has that entirely backward: No one who matters – meaning, nobody in the GOP base that’s so crucial to 2014 midterm success – is going to care that Boehner tried to solve the problem. That’s just distracting. The entire point is to blame Obama — while giving him absolutely no help in making things better.

Oh, and to my false-equivalence-loving, “both sides do it” friends in the media: Bill Kristol sees you, and he’s not fooled. Republicans might get credit from the media for tackling the issue “perhaps for one day,” but it “will take the focus off the man who is above all responsible for the disaster at the border — the president.” On the other hand, if Republicans kill the bill, Kristol knows he can count on leading pundits to go back to asking their most urgent question: Why can’t Obama lead?

Kristol’s strategy is not just politically craven, it’s cruel to the children and families at the border. But Republicans can’t be expected to care about them. And yet, if you believe the new immigrants are vectors of crime and disease, as many conservatives do, inaction is also cruel to the good red-state voters of Arizona and Texas who are bearing the brunt of the influx. You might want to help those red states protect themselves, by passing some funding and some legislative relief to reduce the logjam at the border, and send those who don’t deserve asylum home more quickly.

Nah.

Any kind of legislative solution — even a sham one like Boehner’s — would accept the premise that the border crisis is a complicated bipartisan creation, the result of years of drug, immigration and national security policies that worsened the poverty and political corruption driving Central Americans to flee their homes or send their children north. Any kind of solution also commits the GOP to being a partner in governing, and they’ve given up on that, in the age of Obama and perhaps permanently.

Better to do nothing and blame Obama, and count on the media to fall for it – again. Kristol has been proven wrong about virtually everything else in his career, but he’s been right about the media, so his corrupt strategy may just work.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Epic Incompetence”: Border Failure Rocks House GOP Leadership

It’s hard to overstate what a humiliating failure this is for the House Republican leadership team, especially House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House Republican efforts to build support among their more conservative members collapsed Thursday as Congress prepares to cut town for a month-long recess without first passing a funding bill to address the thousands of unaccompanied minors being detained at the U.S. border.

Confronted with the Republican leadership’s inability to shore up enough votes, House Speaker John Boehner pulled the doomed legislation, which would have provided $659 million in emergency aid to the U.S. border.

Congress is still prepared to leave town tonight for a five-week break, but lawmakers will leave having accomplished nothing in response to the humanitarian crisis along the U.S./Mexico border.

There’s still a small chance the House GOP will figure something out – there will reportedly be an emergency meeting within the hour, though it’s unclear what good it will do – but after exhaustive efforts, it appears House Republicans have killed their own party’s policy.

It was the first real test for the new House Republican leadership team and they appear to have failed miserably.

In a statement, Boehner blamed President Obama for Republicans’ inability to pass their own legislation and urged the president to take unilateral action regardless of Congress. The timing is breathtaking: literally yesterday, GOP lawmakers voted to sue Obama for circumventing Congress, and less than 24 hours later, Boehner is publicly urging Obama to circumvent Congress.

The resulting image is a helpless party, lacking leaders, direction, and purpose. House Republicans were desperate to prove they’re capable of being a governing party, and in the process, they’ve proven the opposite.

To be sure, the GOP border bill was, on a substantive level, pathetic. It would have done very little to address the problem, and its demise is a positive development for the country.

But the real story today is one of epic incompetence and a party that’s practically developed an allergy to completing the basic tasks of government.

This is, of course, great news for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who now appears to have more influence over what happens in the House than the actual House Republican leadership team.

But in the meantime, John Boehner’s Speakership is turning into something of a tragedy. How many times has he put together a bill, only to be betrayed by his own followers? A Democratic source on Capitol Hill recently sent around a brutal collection of bills Boehner asked his members to support, only to see his own House GOP conference reject his appeals: a grand bargain, a debt-ceiling bill in 2011, a payroll tax extension, a transportation bill, a farm bill, one fiscal-cliff bill, another fiscal-cliff bill, another farm bill, and then yesterday. I think my source might have even missed a couple, including the collapse of Boehner’s debt-ceiling bill in February 2014.We’ll have more on this later, but for now Boehner has to be asking himself about the value of a leader with no followers. As if we needed additional evidence, he remains the Speaker In Name Only.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Self Mutilation Disorder”: Republicans Take Careful Aim At Foot, Blast Away

Last week, I asked how the GOP, whom Democrats used to admire for their strategic acumen, turned into such a bunch of clowns, constantly making political blunders and undermining their long-term goals with temper tantrums. It’s a question we might continue to ponder as the House went ahead and voted to sue President Obama last night for his many acts of tyranny and lawlessness. Every Democrat voted in opposition, as did a grand total of five Republicans—but they were opposed only because they wanted to stop pussyfooting around and go right to impeachment. This, truly, is a party that’s ready to lead.

Since this suit is unprecedented, we don’t know for sure how it will be received by the courts. Many legal experts think it will be quickly dismissed on the question of standing; since the House can’t show any harm they’ve incurred because of the President’s allegedly appalling behavior, they may not have the right to bring a case against him. On the other hand, we now understand that you can get Republican judges to go along with just about anything if it’ll strike a blow at the hated Obama. But regardless, the thing Republicans don’t seem to understand is this: This lawsuit will be a disaster for them.

Not as big a disaster as impeachment would be, certainly. But a disaster nonetheless. It will accomplish nothing other than giving Democrats a talking point they can return to for years.

The Republican senators and governors running for president in 2016 may not have had to vote on the lawsuit, but they’re damn sure going to have to take a position on it—and woe be to those who don’t offer their full-throated support. After all, a majority of Republican voters (see here or here) think Obama ought to be impeached, and there’s no quicker way to get yourself branded a RINO than wavering in your opposition to the Kenyan socialist usurper tyrant in the Oval Office. Every Republican everywhere is going to have to answer the same question.

And every time they do, Democrats will say, “Instead of trying to help the country, these bozos decided to sue the president.”

You can tell that Obama himself is absolutely loving this. “Stop being mad all the time,” he said in reference to congressional Republicans in a speech on Wednesday. “Stop just hating all the time. C’mon… I know they’re not happy that I’m president but that’s okay. I got a couple of years left. C’mon… then you can be mad at the next president.” That kind of thing will, of course, make them even madder.

Republicans also may not realize that they’ve given Obama a terrific incentive to take whatever unilateral action he can on issues like immigration, not only because he can justify it with their inability to address actual problems, but because he knows it will drive them batty, making them even more likely to talk about impeachment and even less likely to look like a party that wants to govern, all of which is good for Democrats.

There may be a conservative somewhere who has objected to this suit, but I haven’t come across him or her. I understand that they all believe Obama has gone beyond the limits of executive authority, which is a reasonable position to take. My own belief is that every president pushes against those limits, and the way Obama has done so isn’t unusual, and certainly less egregious than the way his predecessor did. But regardless of whether they disagree, you’d think there would be a contingent of sober conservatives saying something like, “While this lawsuit is merited, it’s also utterly futile and will only lead to more political damage for a party that has already done itself so much.” But I guess not; the prevailing sentiment is that they simply must strike out at Obama, whether it works or not and whatever the cost to themselves.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , | Leave a comment

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