Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.
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Congressional GOP tries ‘poisoning the well,’ two years later

Two years ago this week, congressional Republicans had mixed feelings. On the one hand, they’d just racked up some impressive midterm victories, and were poised to take control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in nearly a decade. On the other hand, President Obama was moving forward with a sweeping immigration policy, which he intended to implement without legislation.

GOP leaders came up with a carefully worded warning to the White House: Obama, they said, shouldn’t “poison the well.” It was a phrase House and Senate Republican leaders used, over and over again. The point was straightforward: if the president took steps GOP lawmakers didn’t like before the new Congress even started, it would hurt Republicans’ feelings, and make constructive, bipartisan policymaking all but impossible. (Obama, aware of GOP tactics from the previous six years, acted anyway, realizing that Republicans would never compromise.)

Two years later, who’s poisoning the well now? The Washington Post has a report this morning that seems like an article from a farcical drama, but happens to be entirely real.
Senior Republican lawmakers are openly discussing the prospect of impeaching Hillary Clinton should she win the presidency, a stark indication that partisan warfare over her tenure as secretary of state will not end on Election Day.

Chairmen of two congressional committees said in media interviews this week they believe Clinton committed impeachable offenses in setting up and using a private email server for official State Department business.

And a third senior Republican, the chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee, told The Washington Post he is personally convinced Clinton should be impeached for influence peddling involving her family foundation. He favors further congressional investigation into that matter.
The trio the Post mentioned doesn’t include House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who this week suggested Hillary Clinton’s email server management constituted “treason” against the United States.

It also doesn’t include Senate House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also asserting this week that he too believes Clinton has committed impeachable offenses.

And this tally only refers to the top Republican officials in Congress. I’m not talking about some relatively obscure House back-bencher, who made reckless comments on some far-right radio show. We’re looking at a dynamic in which multiple, powerful committee chairman – from the House and Senate – are openly discussing their desire to charge the next president with high crimes, before they even know for sure who the next president is going to be.

Instead of exploring possible avenues of compromise, looking for areas where they might try to work constructively with the next president, congressional Republicans are “poisoning the well” before most of the country even casts a ballot.

For months, many have wondered aloud how Republican politics could descend to such a toxic level that Donald Trump could claim the party’s presidential nomination. As talk of impeachment and “treason” permeates the GOP lexicon, is it really that great a mystery?