Will the Republicans Impeach Obama?

Jonathan Chait looks into the future:

Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama. They won’t do it right away. And they won’t succeed in removing Obama. (You need 67 Senate votes.) But if Obama wins a second term, the House will vote to impeach him before he leaves office.

This isn't a bad bet -- let's not forget that 18 Republican members of Congress introduced a resolution to impeach Bill Clinton two months before the Lewinsky scandal broke, on the vague grounds that Clinton had "engaged in a systemic effort to obstruct, undermine, and compromise the legitimate and proper functions and processes of the executive branch," also known as "How dare he pursue policies with which we disagree!" And as I've been pointing out again and again, as a group the Republicans in the next Congress are going to be substantially more radical than those who were elected in 1994.

But (and forgive me if Jon makes this point in the subscriber-only version of the piece) this could become somewhat complicated within the Republican caucus. On one hand, you'll have a Republican leadership that remembers what happened in 1998 -- the Republicans spent all year impeaching Clinton, failed to convict him in the Senate, and then lost badly at the polls that November -- and would like to avoid a repeat. On the other hand, you'll have a Tea Party Caucus, many of whose members will genuinely believe both that Obama is history's greatest monster and that God sent them to Congress to destroy him.

So Speaker Boehner would probably then send the impeachment resolution into legislative limbo, making sure it never came to a vote. But then the Tea Partiers could start protesting Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership for being soft on Obama. It could be a lot of fun!

-- Paul Waldman

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