Saturday, October 19, 2019

What Is Impeachment For?

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
That is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing.
Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power?
I’d wager that the flames of impeachment were stoked more this week by President Trump’s foreign policy than they have been by any purported impeachable offense his opponents have conjured up over the last three years. By redeploying a few dozen American troops in Syria, the president acceded to a Turkish invasion of territory occupied by the Kurds. Ostensibly, that has nothing to do with the impeachment frenzy over Ukraine, whose government Democrats accuse the president of pressuring to dig up dirt on a political rival. But Turkey’s aggression could crack the president’s impeachment firewall.
There is rage over Trump’s decision. It is rage over a policy choice, not over high crimes and misdemeanors. Only the most blindly angry can doubt the lawfulness of the commander-in-chief’s movement of U.S. soldiers, even though it rendered inevitable the Turks’ rout of the Kurds.
Ironically, though, the lack of an impeachable offense is not the relevant impeachment consideration. Nor does it matter much that, while excruciating, the president’s decision is defensible and will be applauded by Americans weary of entanglement in the Muslim Middle East’s wars (as I discussed in a column on Thursday).
What matters is that President Trump has damaged his support among Senate Republicans. How badly remains to be seen.
Republicans, who hold a 53–47 Senate majority, lambasted Trump’s decision. This was not a routine policy disagreement, along the lines of “I wanted a top marginal tax rate of 33 percent, but the president insists on 37.” We are talking intense disapproval. This is rage rooted in a sense of dishonor. Political disputes, even intra-party, are par for the course — but shame moves people.
The genius of the Constitution’s impeachment process is the requirement of a two-thirds conviction vote in the Senate. The Framers feared the specter of Congress impeaching a president out of sheer partisanship. The need to establish supermajority support for removal ensures that impeachment is reserved for objectively egregious misconduct, the only kind that can generate a consensus for impeachment that cuts across partisan lines. Historically, the practical impossibility of achieving a Senate supermajority for removal has prevented impeachment from even getting off the ground in the House.
It is true, of course, that only a simple House majority is needed to approve impeachment articles. If we lived in a blindly partisan country, such a simple majority could materialize any time different parties controlled the House and the presidency. Happily, we don’t live in a blindly partisan country. More to the point, the House has historically seen it as counterproductive to impeach a president when there is no practical possibility of removal by the Senate.
Read the rest from Andrew C. McCarthy HERE.

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