"If you're going to impeach a president of the United States you need to do it right. And it's already July."
President Obama will not be impeached — at least not this year. Despite a rallying cry in far-right media led by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, tea-party members of Congress on Tuesday echoed House Speaker John Boehner in saying they have no interest in pursuing an impeachment.
At their monthly "Conversations with Conservatives" luncheon, six of the House Republican conference's leading conservative voices rejected the possibility of impeachment outright. For one thing, they argue, there's not much time left in the term for a lengthy impeachment process. But they also suggested that the consequences of taking that kind of action against the president could be politically dangerous for the Republican Party.
Voices on the right have called for Congress to impeach the president for not enforcing the law, pointing strongly toward his delay of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act and enforcement along the border, as well as for withholding information from Congress, as in the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this year. For now, conservatives appear to be satiated by House Speaker John Boehner's decision to file a lawsuit against the president over the employer-mandate issue, in lieu of impeachment.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he didn't believe that the president's actions have yet reached the level of impeachable offenses and argued that the party shouldn't "even be talking about impeachment at this time." Asked specifically about Palin's comments in a Fox News online column titled "The Case for Obama's Impeachment," Labrador noted that she, as a former governor, has more leeway to make such bold declarations and does not have to deal with the consequences. "[Palin] doesn't have the burden of leadership right now, and it's very easy for her to go on Fox News and make statements that she doesn't have to be accountable to anybody but herself," he said.
Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., added that political analysts who have looked at the possibility of an impeachment proceeding have found time and again that it would merely rile up the Democratic base, just in time for November's midterm elections. What's more, it could turn off independent voters who "right now are leaning our way," he added. "So if you want to help the Democrats keep control of the Senate, this would be the right way to do that," Duncan said.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who voted to impeach President Clinton ("every chance I could," he joked), said there just isn't time left in this term for the House to take up impeachment — particularly if members want to pass any other legislation this term.
Barton didn't take a side on whether Obama should be impeached, calling the matter "debatable," but he also added that the Senate would never vote to convict him. "As a practical matter it wouldn't be possible even if we made the decision to do it.... If you're going to impeach a president of the United States you need to do it right. And it's already July," he said.
Of the six members present, only Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, argued that Obama ought to be impeached, but he agreed with his colleagues that such a decision would be practically impossible this late in the term. "I don't think it's practical that we impeach him right now, but, absolutely, he deserves it," he said.
Rep. Duncan, who was also present for Clinton's impeachment, summed it up simply: "When somebody's shooting themselves in the foot, you don't take away their gun."
"And nobody wants a President Joe Biden," Labrador added, to laughter.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote to Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The quote was said by Rep. John Duncan.