The I-Word
Seeking ways to limit the president’s executive overreach, Republicans still shy away from impeachment.



An academic was the first to cross the invisible line.

“The ultimate check on presidential lawlessness is elections and, in extreme cases, impeachment,” Georgetown law professor Nicholas Rosenkranz told Representative Darrell Issa at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on the president’s duty to uphold the law.

With that first mention of the “i word,” leaks began springing from the dam that had been holding back the House GOP lawmakers united by frustration with President Obama’s executive abuses. Republicans have been watching impotently as Obama has walked all over the law, with increasing brazenness the further he gets into his tenure. His first term included major clashes over Congress’s subpoena power and, months before the election, the president’s imposition of the “DREAM Act” by fiat — something he had publicly said before was beyond his legal authority.

Almost a year into Obama’s second term, his unilateral delays of Obamacare and other legally questionable actions are now routine. He even threatened to veto a bill that would have ratified something he had done on his own without any clear authority, the delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate.

“It’s a real problem,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte says. One of the biggest frustrations: Senate Democrats don’t seem to give a rip.

“To me, the Senate being complicit in watching the executive branch strip the powers of the Congress is absolutely despicable,” Goodlatte tells me. “You don’t hear a peep out of Harry Reid about the fact that prerogatives of Congress are being trampled upon by the executive branch.” Following Issa’s questions, Iowa Republican Steve King asked the expert witnesses what remedies Congress has for a president unbound by the law. Having dismissed the “power of the purse” as obviously ineffective (just look at the government shutdown, several lawmakers and witnesses pointed out), King moved on down the line to lawsuits and, finally, the remedy that shall not be named.

“Then the next recourse is, as Mr. Rozenkranz said, the word that we don’t like to say in this committee and that I’m not about to utter here in this particular hearing,” King said.

King tells me the next day he didn’t want to distract from the president’s actions by saying the word out loud. But the experts at the witness stand didn’t shy away from radical ideas.

“There is a procedure in the Constitution that allows the people to amend the Constitution without going through Congress,” the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon offered. “That is another method where the people can try to restrain the executive.”

And Rozenkranz dismissed King’s timidity, enunciating the word like a dare, loud and clear.

“I don’t think you should be hesitant to say the word in this room. A check on executive lawlessness is impeachment. And if you find the president is willfully and repeatedly violating the Constitution. . . . I think that would be a clear case for impeachment,” he said.