Along with making laws by passing bills and declaring war, impeachment of the President of the United States is one of the most important functions of Congress.
And yet once again, Republicans are casually (and recklessly) floating the I-word, this time at President Barack Obama.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who as the Senate Minority Whip holds the second-highest position in the Republican Senate leadership, mentioned the possibility of impeaching Obama today on Bill Bennett’s radio show during a discussion about immigration.
Specifically they discussed the The Department of Homeland Security's announcement to pull back on a program known as 287(g), which allows the feds to deputize local officials to make immigration-based arrests. The move is expected to further hinder the state’s ability to enforce SB1070 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling yesterday.
"If the president insists on continuing to ignore parts of the law that he doesn’t like, and simply not enforce that law, the primary remedy for that is political," Kyl explained. "Now if it’s bad enough and if shenanigans involved in it, then of course impeachment is always a possibility. But I don't think at this point anybody is talking about that."
Excuse me Senator Kyl, you just did talk about it. You are talking about it!
Listen to the full exchange:
By the way, only one president has ever faced certain impeachment (and removal from office), but Republican Richard Nixon resigned before the full House of Representatives could vote.
Two other presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both Democrats) were actually impeached by the House. However, both were acquitted in the Senate and completed their terms of office.
Yes, almost every president has been threatened with impeachment at one time or another. But most of these threats are not serious.
Even President George W. Bush escaped impeachment after Democrats took the House back in the November 2006.
On July 25, 2008, the House voted 251-166 to refer 35 articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee. The charges against Bush were serious -- misleading the nation into war with Iraq and illegal use of torture, among others. Even so, no further action was taken.
Impeachment is rare and very serious business. And it should be treated as such.