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January 25, 2007

The state of impeachment

Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is "off the table," because she's smart enough to know that impeachment would bog Congress down for the next two years, to little purpose. All it would do is show America how loony the Democrats are. Which is why I've been focusing on it -- in my own little effort to get the Dems to bite.

The nutroots are, understandably, angry that the congressional Democrats are dismissing the idea, and they're looking for ways of pushing the process themselves. The latest idea is to have a state legislature submit a petition to Congress asking for impeachment. It all goes back to Thomas Jefferson, a guy the Left usually dismisses as a dead white male slaveowner. John Nichols explains in the Nation:

The New Mexico impeachment initiative, one of several currently moving forward in state legislatures around the country, is designed to force members of Congress to take seriously the increasingly-popular demand that the president and vice president be held to account for misleading Congress over the Iraq war, supporting torture, engaging in illegal spying on U.S. citizens and using their offices to punish critics. "I am an American citizen that believes that the Constitution is a sacred document and that the Bush administration clearly does not share this sentiment," explains Grubesic, while Ortiz y Pino says, "We're simply doing what all elected officials should be doing. That is, listening to the voice of the people and trying to carry it out as best we can."

The New Mexico legislators have taken their cue from Thomas Jefferson, who in a manual of congressional procedures written more than two centuries ago affirmed that state legislatures could petition the House to impeach federal officials. The third president explained in Section 603 of his Manual on Parliamentary Practice and Rules of the House of Representatives, a volume that is still referred to by House leaders for precedents and guidance, that: "there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion": 1) By charges made on the floor by a member of the House; 2) By charges preferred by a memorial filed by a House member; 3) By charges contained in a Resolution introduced by a House member; 4) By a message from the President; 5) By charges transmitted by a State legislature, or a grand jury; 5) By facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House."
Not that this necessarily is going anywhere, even in New Mexico. The resolution was immediately referred to three committees, which, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, "generally is thought of as the kiss of death for legislation." The reason: "Not only are there three chances to kill a measure before it gets to a floor vote, it also increases the chance that time will run out in the 60-day session before a measure can make it through both chambers." The New Mexican adds that Republicans in the legislature are all against it, and that it's "not openly supported by either of New Mexico's congressional Democrats."

The text of the resolution may be found here.

I've noticed that the dextrosphere is almost entirely silent on the matter. All I've found is a brief posting at Free Republic and one at The Influence Peddler. Why that should be I don't know. It's at the very least a fascinating look at BDS on a local level.

But the sinestrosphere is going wild with it. Take a look at the Google Blogsearch results. Even Michael Moore, though his post simply copies an AP article about it.

One New Mexican writer says there's uncertainty about what happens if the resolution is passed:
What exactly that means is still under discussion. Does it mean such a resolution has to be introduced in the U.S. House if it's approved by a state Legislature? Does it mean the House has to debate impeachment?

Since he’s the lone Democrat from New Mexico in the U.S. House and might have a role to play in the process, U.S. Rep. Tom Udall’s staff has been looking into the situation in recent days.

"We are looking into it, and Congressman Udall will continue to closely monitor the progress of the resolution in the state Legislature," said Udall press secretary Marissa Padilla.
I have no idea, but I suspect the House wouldn't have to do anything at all, unless it wanted to. Article I, section 2, clause 4, of the Constitution provides: "The House of Representatives * * * shall have the sole power of impeachment."

What it certainly will do, however, is bring to House Democrats the precise problem they've been trying to sweep under the rug. And it will keep the rest of us busy watching their antics.