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Analysis: Clinton impeachment shadows GOP lawsuit

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm •  Published: July 28, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The last time Republicans unleashed impeachment proceedings against a Democratic president, they lost five House seats in an election they seemed primed to win handily.

Memories of Bill Clinton and the campaign of 1998 may help explain why Speaker John Boehner and the current GOP leadership want no part of such talk now, although conservatives increasingly clamor for it. And also why President Barack Obama's White House seems almost eager to stir the impeachment pot three months before midterm elections.

Republicans have already "opened the door for impeachment" with their plans to sue the president over allegedly failing to carry out the health care law, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer told reporters. In something of a dare last week, he also said any further action Obama takes on his own on immigration will "up the likelihood" of a GOP-led move to remove Obama from office.

House Democrats' campaign committee used reports of tea party Republicans meeting to discuss impeachment in an emailed fundraising plea sent Sunday. They warned "the fate of Obama's presidency is at stake."

Pfeiffer and Democratic fundraisers aren't privy to the inner workings of the House Republican leadership. Boehner, who is, insists at every public opportunity that the lawsuit is one thing, impeachment is another — and not on the table. The planned suit results from a dispute over the balance of powers between the president and Congress, he said last month, and the House "must act as an institution to defend the constitutional principles at stake."

Republicans dispute suggestions by Democrats that the suit's true purpose is to release pressure from the party's more extreme supporters for impeachment.

One Republican committee chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, said in a brief interview that Clinton deserved to be impeached, but Obama does not.

The 42nd president "broke the law," he said of formal allegations that accused Clinton of lying under oath to a grand jury and obstructing justice in connection with his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Contrasting the former president with the current one, Sessions said: "Breaking the law is different from not fully enforcing the law."

At least one senior Republican isn't as definitive. Interviewed on Sunday on Fox, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, newly elected to the GOP leadership, repeatedly declined to rule out impeaching Obama.

For his part, Sessions spoke a few hours after he opened a meeting of the House Rules Committee with what could well have been a case for impeachment: sweeping allegations that went far beyond the boundaries of the planned lawsuit.

"The president has unilaterally waived work requirements for welfare recipients," the Texas Republican said. The chief executive "ended accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind," an education law dating to the George W. Bush era, he said.

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