House Republicans on Wednesday voted to authorize a lawsuit against President Barack Obama for his use of executive actions as both parties attempt to utilize the suit to motivate voters ahead of the midterm elections.
In a strict party-line 225-201 vote, Republican approved the legislation that accuses the president of exceeding his Constitutional authority by changing how his signature health care legislation was implemented. The measure does not require Senate approval.
No Democrats voted for the bill.
Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Wednesday that conservative calls to impeach President Barack Obama and the House GOP’s push to sue the President are motivating the Democratic base in advance of November’s midterm elections.
“You bet we’re going to run on a Congress that is just obsessed with lawsuits, suing the President, talking about impeaching him, instead of solutions for the middle class, talking about jobs and infrastructure. You bet that we’re going to ask people to support us based on that contrast,” Israel declared at a briefing of CNN political reporters and producers.
Saying that Republicans have “stepped into a mess on this,” the seven-term congressman from New York added that “any time voters see contrasts between our priorities and their (the GOP’s) priorities, it is beneficial to us. No question about that….we win on contrast.”
If you want evidence that Democrats are talking up the impeachment of President Obama, look no farther than the floors of the House and Senate…
[A] search for the terms “impeach” and “impeachment” in floor speeches in the House and Senate since Monday reveals that only Democrats have discussed the matter. At least ten Democratic legislators, including the Senate majority leader, have brought up impeachment, while no Republican has touched on the issue.
If all you were reading were Democratic email lists, though, you might imagine it was December 1998 all over again. The set of increasingly hysterical missives from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee presents an alternate political history of the last week.
It’s no secret why Democrats are so eager to talk about impeachment. By their own admission, it’s been a cash cow, drawing in millions of dollars in donations. The fact that it seems to annoy Boehner—who noted early on that this was a fundraising ploy—is political icing on the money cake. The subject lines are easy to mock, but they’re an interesting look at how political fundraisers are learning to manipulate supporters. Joshua Green laid out the science behind the Obama reelection campaign’s sometimes-silly subject lines in 2012; Democrats have only sharpened those pitches since.
To get a sense of the tone, and volume, of the deluge, here are the  emails I’ve gotten over just the last week, excepting press emails and the like; some people have reported getting even more.
There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans…
This data comes from a Lexis-Nexis search of transcripts on each [cable news] network. It counts each mention of the words “impeach” or “impeachment.” The terms were used 32 times in a single episode of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on Monday. (Ordinarily, I’d adjust for the overall volume of words spoken on each network, but I know from my previous research that MSNBC and Fox News have about the same number of words recorded in Lexis-Nexis.)
The scoreboard so far in July: Fox News has 95 mentions of impeachment, and MSNBC 448. That works out to about 2.7 mentions per hour of original programming on MSNBC, or once every 22 minutes.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Wednesday mocked the suggestion that Republicans might pursue impeachment proceedings against President Obama. “I see this as a ridiculous game by the president and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going their way,” Ryan told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
He said Obama’s misdeeds don’t “rise to high-crime-and-misdemeanors” level.
Still, he said it was “responsible” for House Speaker John Boehner to file a lawsuit against Obama for overreaching when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and other measures.
In June 2008, 12 House Democrats—including committee and subcommittee chairmen and close allies of Mrs. Pelosi—introduced a bill to impeach President George W. Bush. Imagine the outrage if then-first lady Laura Bush, White House press secretary Dana Perino, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan had used the occasion to raise campaign funds. And it’s worth reiterating: There is no such bill today.
Second, impeachment talk motivates a lethargic Democratic base, worn-out and embarrassed by Mr. Obama’s incompetence and lack of leadership. Mr. Israel admitted impeachment talk is “energizing our base.”…
Third, impeachment threats hurt Republicans with independents, a group critical to victory this fall. Today, independents are inclined to favor Republicans by an 11-point margin, according to a July 22 Fox News Poll, and 59% disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance. Yet in a July 20 CNN/ORC poll, 63% of independents oppose impeachment.
Finally, talk of impeachment diverts attention from everything else. Every moment spent discussing impeachment is a moment not spent discussing issues that hurt Democrats, such as ObamaCare, the weak recovery, the border crisis, the nation’s growing debt and the world’s increasingly dangerous condition.
For contrast, there are all sorts of things that get talked about on the Left – bandied by leading policymakers up to key party leaders, or supported by big chunks of the party’s base, or proposed in op-ed pages – that nobody ever thinks to quiz Democratic candidates on, because journalists apply a much higher level of skepticism than they do when dealing with Republicans. Just to pick a few examples:
-Should we have a total (single-payer) government takeover of healthcare?
-Should we repeal the Second Amendment and have a total ban on guns?
-Should we reinstate the draft? (Democrats proposed this in 2004 mainly so they could run on the claim that Bush wanted it, even though Bush’s Defense Secretary was the principal legislative architect of the all-volunteer military. It’s been introduced again.)
-Should we repeal the 22d Amendment so Obama can run for a third term?
-Should we pay reparations for slavery?
-Should we repeal parts of the First Amendment?
Republican calls to impeach President Obama look like a wedge issue — in favor of Democrats. As a recent CNN poll shows, 65 percent of Americans oppose impeaching Obama, including 86 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents and even 42 percent of Republicans.
Given those numbers, no one should be surprised that Democrats are playing up the possibility of impeachment. It motivates their base, helps to raise money and draws attention to an issue where the public is on their side. In contrast, Republicans are deeply split on the issue — a divide that is playing out publicly among both legislators and conservative pundits.
The CNN poll also shows, however, that the proposed Republican lawsuit against Mr. Obama for his handling of the health care law is much more effective at consolidating the Republican base. Though only 41 percent of Americans over all support a lawsuit, that total includes three in four G.O.P. identifiers — a total that almost matches Democratic opposition of 84 percent.
The impeachment farce is getting so much attention because Democrats and some on the right see it as a money maker. Little did we know when we wrote recently that Sarah Palin and MSNBC had a shared interest in pushing impeachment that the former Alaska governor would soon debut her own $9.95-a-month subscription Web channel. When you’re trying to steal eyeballs from Glenn Beck and talk radio, it’s all about market share. Impeachment is a marketing tool, and never let anyone seem more furious at Barack Obama…
Liberals claim that Mr. Obama’s pose as law giver is necessary because Republicans are obstructionist, and, anyhow, the Constitution’s limits are the dusty artifacts of the 18th century unsuited to modern times. One irony is that they dismiss the House suit even as they claim to be troubled by national security surveillance that has always been grounded in both statute and the Constitution, with no evidence of abuse.
Yet Mr. Obama’s claim that he can pick and choose which laws to enforce is far more offensive to the American tradition than anything the government has done in the name of antiterrorism. The House challenge is an opportunity to vindicate the genius of the Framers to prevent the exercise of arbitrary and centralized power.
Yet I can’t blame the Democrats for getting as much mileage from it as they can. After all, we’re talking about a Republican Party that:
— Constantly uses over-the-top rhetoric. And not just talk-show hosts. This also applies to the congressional leadership — about fluff such as, say, “czars.” Or, yes, Benghazi, the non-scandal that has Republicans gearing up a special committee that they will try to keep going as long as possible…
— Has shut down the government and gone to the brink of default, demonstrating a willingness to take ill-considered extreme actions.
–Actually committed the partisan impeachment of the previous Democratic president.
Republicans can’t do anything about 1998 other than to try to remember that short-term plays to their strongest supporters can have long-lasting consequences with everybody else. They can, however, do something now: they could drop the lawsuit, make it absolutely clear impeachment is for nuts and kooks, and stop pretending that Obama is the first president to ever issue an executive order or use discretion in interpreting the law.
If Boehner had “current” or “future” plans to impeach Obama, Republicans wouldn’t be wasting valuable time filing an unusual lawsuit against him. But that lawsuit is meant to strike a balance that allows the GOP to channel its base voters’ resentment of Obama into midterm election victories without indulging their toxic, procedurally extreme tendencies. In that sense it’s best seen as a reflection of a real and growing (or soon-to-grow) desire to take it all the way. And as the entire White House political team is fond of noting, Boehner had “no interest in seeing a government shutdown” one week before he did it anyway. Republicans really are more liable to go where danger lies than Democrats.
In that sense, when Democrats at the White House, and congressional leaders like Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, play up the possibility of impeachment, they aren’t just pandering to liberals and raising money. They’re scraping at the stitches binding Republican leaders and party activists. And there’s no downside. The more firmly Boehner protests, the more dejected a significant segment of the right becomes. But the more wiggle room he leaves himself, the more the issue lingers over national politics in a way that damages Republicans nationally. Under the circumstances Boehner’s protestations are a sign of real frustration, and perhaps that he’s starting to recognize that the lawsuit was ill conceived.
Still, I’m not convinced that Democrats, including Obama, are eager to Jedi mind trick Boehner into actually impeaching Obama so much as they want the stench of impeachment to trail Republicans everywhere they go. I suspect they’ll be able to strike that balance up until Obama announces his deportation relief plan. After that, things get murky. But if Democrats truly welcome impeachment, particularly over something as politically crosswired as immigration, then Obama will go as far as he believes the law allows him to go, and let the chips fall where they may.