Republicans opened a Pandora’s box when they started talking about impeaching President Barack Obama.
Now they want to shut it again. But they can’t.
For the past year, conservative Republican lawmakers have hinted at the possibility of impeaching the president, a drastic action that ultraconservative members of Congress likely want to pursue and an issue that rallies the GOP’s conservative base. As it turns out, it rallies the Democratic base as well.
“Look, I understand their strategy is intended to gin up their base, but it’s having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election and also moving persuadable voters, swing voters to us in a midterm election,” Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told reporters Tuesday.
Speaking of the lawsuit the House plans against the president over an employer mandate delay in Obamacare, as well as the impeachment talk, Israel said, “I think that the Republican strategy of lawsuits, approaching impeachment, is fundamentally misfiring.”
Over the past week, fundraising emails from the DCCC have focused on the lawsuit and on impeachment, and that strategy is literally paying off. “The House of Representatives has never sued a sitting president in all of U.S. history. And if they do it, impeachment may very well be the next step,” says one email to supporters from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. “It’s time to go all in defending President Obama.”
In a 24-hour period Monday, the DCCC raised $1 million. According to Israel, the group has raised $7.6 million online and gained 74,000 new donors since House Speaker John Boehner announced his lawsuit against the president.
On Tuesday, Boehner called out the Democrats’ efforts, in what has become a raging game of “who started it?” over the impeachment question.
“Listen, this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff, and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill,” Boehner told reporters. “Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's election.
“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner continued. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”
It’s true that a top White House aide recently said Boehner’s lawsuit “has opened the door to impeachment,” but as Democrats were quick to point out to Boehner, Republicans have been talking about it too.
Following Boehner’s remarks, the Democratic National Committee’s press secretary, Michael Czin, sent off an email to reporters pointing out that Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, recently elected to the No. 3 post in Republican leadership, refused to take impeachment off the table during an interview on Fox News Sunday. Pelosi’s office sent off a similar email, with quotes from 11 GOP lawmakers raising the issue of impeachment.
“Despite what Speaker Boehner claims—there’s only one party that’s been beating the impeachment drum for years, and that’s the GOP,” Czin said in the DNC email.