When is it okay for a politician to discuss impeaching a president? Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst is receiving criticism for her responses to questions about impeaching President Obama. Ernst, who won her party's nomination last month, never actually said she supported impeachment. But amid recent calls from some conservatives that "it's time to impeach" the president the Iowa Republican is receiving some tougher scrutiny over her past statements on impeachment. But what's not being said is that her Democratic opponent once voted to continue debating impeachment proceedings against a Republican vice president.
Yahoo! News first reported on a video from a January candidate forum showing Ernst being asked about Obama's executive overreach. In the forum, which featured other Republican candidates, Ernst stopped short of outright endorsing impeachment and removal of office, but did say Obama had "become a dictator" over his recess appointments and "should face the consequences." Ernst went on to say that elected members of Congress ought to push harder against such executive violations, and her campaign later "clarified" that she had been answering a hypothetical. And in a radio interview last month, she said that House speaker John Boehner should move forward on impeachment proceedings if he "thinks he has a case." Ernst added that she wasn't "encouraging or discouraging it." (Boehner, for his part, told reporters today he wasn't interested in pursuing impeachment.)
Democrats and the campaign of her opponent, Bruce Braley, have pounced. Here's Justin Barasky of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
And here's Braley's communications director, Jeff Giertz:
Fair hits at Ernst, perhaps. But what happens to the politics of impeachment when the parties are reversed?
In 2007, Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio tried to put forward a resolution to bring articles of impeachment against Republican vice president Dick Cheney for "high crimes and misdemeanors." As they often did in the final years of the Bush administration, the Democratic House leadership attempted to quash impeachment efforts by holding a vote to effectively kill Kucinich's bill. The motion to kill the bill failed, made possible by several Republicans, who hoped to force Democrats to continue debating potentially politically damaging impeachment proceedings, and 86 liberal Democrats.
Among those 86 Democrats who voted against killing the articles of impeachment? First-term Iowa congressman Bruce Braley.