Impeachment and the midterms

Democrats watching the antics of congressional Republicans last month must have thought it was Christmas in July, because the party's conservative wing seemed to be in an inadvertent gift-giving mood. 2014 was seen as a golden year for Republicans in expanding their House majority and gaining control of the Senate — where all that was needed was to pick up six seats.

Another exciting potential was that while presidential elections energize the electorate, registered voters see off-year elections as more of a housekeeping chore to avoid; add to that that registered Republicans are more likely to vote in them than Democrats. Coupled with President Obama's dismal numbers, the win/win scenario was the anticipated success Republicans also expected in dominating state legislative and executive offices in November. What could possibly go wrong?

What could go wrong is all those zealots on the Republican right with dreams of impeaching another Democratic president and initiating a lawsuit against Obama for exceeding his powers in governing by executive orders. The Republican leadership, however, knows these issues will be no help in November. But for Democrats, it is like Santa Claus was on an unexpected gift-giving spree, and they reacted quickly. Anyone who has ever sent a check to a Democrat, no matter how small, can attest to a recent bombardment of emails, phone calls and mailings seeking donations. And the faithful responded. The New York Times reported that the Democratic Party claimed to have raised $1 million in one day, and that was before the House of Representatives voted to sue President Obama for exceeding the powers of the presidency, or as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) so quaintly described it, "of leaving the Constitution in tatters." There will be even more money coming in.

Boehner is a smart man. He is aware the American public and his fellow Republicans aren't interested in impeaching Obama. He also knows that the hotheads in the House will hurt Republicans in November over this non-issue. Boehner has distanced himself from the impeachment speculations by scoffing at the idea as a "scam" thought up by Democrats in the White House to stimulate fundraising and entice Democrats to vote in November. It is hard to see how anyone will buy that contention since this White House hasn't shown that it is smart enough to have come up with such a clever ruse.

Boehner also understands that impeachment is an empty threat that excites Tea Party favorites like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). The absurdity of the threat is that even if the House could find sufficient votes to impeach, it is highly unlikely that the Senate could tally the necessary two-thirds majority to expel the president from office.

And then once again, before the anxiously anticipated August congressional five-week recess, Boehner's House Republicans embarrassed him by forcing him to pull a legislative proposal dealing with the thousands of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the Mexican border. Boehner said that he had the votes to pass a Republican border security proposal that was stripped down to a $659 million bill and was aimed at speeding up deportations. He had to scrap the measure when the right wing of his party had differences and refused to support his leadership.

November is only a few months away, but there is the cliche about how a week can be a lifetime in politics, and that anything can and will happen. This could still be the year Republicans take control of both houses of Congress, but if they do, it won't be as easy as the pundits were predicting. It could be possible if, as Alexander Bolton wrote in The Hill, House members heed the warning of Republican senators: "Don't screw this up."

Conconi is a veteran Washington journalist and the host of the Internet public affairs program Focus Washington.

More in Washington Metro News

Speaker Boehner did not speak for DC

Read more »