Accused? Censor? Stigma moves away from toughest sentences in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have held it back for months on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Attorney General Merrick Garland is also facing it. And President Joe Biden is apparently not far behind.

Driven by demands from far-right members, Republicans in the House are threatening impeachment against Biden and his top Cabinet officials, creating a backbeat of chatter about the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that drive legislative action, spur commission investigations, raking in fundraising money and complicating the plans of Chairman Kevin McCarthy and his executive team.

Long considered an option of last resort, to be triggered only for the most serious wrongdoings, the power of impeachment authorized by the Constitution is rapidly changing from the extraordinary to the mundane, pushed in large part by Republicans and their grievances over how whose Democrats have twice impeached President Donald Trump.

Republicans remain so opposed to Trump’s impeachments, in fact, that they are pushing for votes to completely overturn the charges — an attempt to clear his name that is without direct precedent in congressional history.

“We see a generation of Republicans who are much more willing to test the limits of the militarization of procedures,” said Julian Zelizer, historian and political scientist at Princeton University.

On Sunday, McCarthy made Garland the latest target of a possible impeachment inquiry as Republicans examine how the Justice Department handled the prosecution of Hunter Biden for federal tax violations. It capped a tumultuous week in which far-right Republicans forced a vote to send articles of impeachment against Biden to an investigative committee and also voted to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff for his remarks and actions during the 2017 investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. .

Some Republicans are pushing for another no-confidence action, this time against Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson for his leadership of the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In the past, lawmakers have reserved censure, a lesser penalty than expulsion, for gross misconduct. When former Representative Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, was censured in 2010 in a bipartisan vote for violating ethics, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi solemnly summoned him to the well of the House, where the censured members are to stand while the resolution is read in a moment of public shame.

“We really tried to put aside partisan considerations because we knew how sharp and powerful the weapon (of censorship) was,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, who was one of Pelosi’s closest confidants. be rare. Now it’s in every cycle, in the latest news.

When Schiff was censored last week, proceedings quickly took on a carnival feel. Democrats, Pelosi included, rushed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the House well. They heckled McCarthy as he read the charges – shouting “Shame!” “Disgrace!” and “Adam! Adam!” — until the speaker leaves the stage.

“What happens comes back,” a Democrat could be heard shouting in the chamber. Republicans streamed out of the chamber shaking their heads.

“It was wild in there,” said Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla. She had brought the no-confidence resolution against Schiff, using a legislative tool that allowed her to bypass leadership and force a vote.

The fervor in the House to mete out punishments shows no signs of ending — in part because lawmakers are garnering media attention and fundraising that regularly replace committee chairs as the locus of power in the House.

Luna, who is just months into her first term in the House after winning a Florida district once held by Democrats, was the subject of a primetime Fox News interview after his successful campaign to censor Schiff.

And the attention cut both ways. Schiff, who is running for a California Senate seat, seemed to relish the moment and used it in a fundraising blitz.

“They go after people they think are effective; they go after people they think are standing up to them,” Schiff said in an interview on “The View,” one of several TV appearances he had afterward.

Yet there is a risk that Republicans’ appetite for the use of punitive powers could easily escalate into a more serious test of whether Congress legitimately wields power — and nowhere does that possibility appear greater than when it comes to Biden.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado who won re-election last year with less than 600 votes, forced a vote last week on an impeachment resolution against Biden on ‘high felonies’ charges for his handling of the border. American with Mexico.

Republican leaders managed to stifle Boebert’s resolve, arranging a vote that sent the issue to congressional committees for consideration.

Some Republicans, however, see it as a matter of when, not if, Biden is impeached. The floor debate over the resolution looked like a dress rehearsal, as Democrats and Republicans debated whether Biden committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ with his handling of border politics and immigration.

Only three other presidents in US history have been impeached – Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump, although none have been convicted by the Senate. If Republicans decide to make Biden fourth, a system of checks and balances created by the drafters could face a test like never before.

While the Constitution’s ‘high felony’ impeachment standard is deliberately open-ended, Republicans’ impeachment argument against Biden has so far centered on disagreement with his policy decisions, namely his handling. of the southern border, which they claim is tantamount to breaking his oath of office.

Zelizer, the political historian, warned that going ahead with impeachment on these grounds would have lasting consequences.

“It weakens the function of government, it undermines trust in this democracy and it will leave democracy weaker than when it started,” he said.

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