Grover Norquist, the Republican uber-activist, sat down with National Journal last week, and shared some thoughts on what he expects to see in Washington after the November elections. His use of the “I” word was rather striking.
NORQUIST: If the Republicans have the House, Senate, and the presidency, I’m told that they could do an early budget vote – a reconciliation vote where you extend the Bush tax cuts out for a decade or five years…. And, if you have a Republican president to go with a Republican House and Senate, then they pass the [Paul] Ryan plan [on Medicare].
NJ: What if the Democrats still have control? What’s your scenario then?
NORQUIST: Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach.
By all indications, Norquist wasn’t kidding. From the perspective of this leading GOP powerbroker, presidential impeachment is on the table in 2014 unless Obama extends Bush-era tax cuts.
There are three larger angles to this to consider. The first is that Republicans, 14 years after an impeachment crusade against President Clinton, seem a little preoccupied with the subject. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has raised the specter of Obama impeachment over DOMA; Fox News has brought up impeachment over immigration policy; Herman Cain wants to see the president impeached over the Affordable Care Act; and not too long ago, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said he likes the idea of impeaching Obama simply because “it would tie things up” in Washington for a while.
The second angle to keep in mind is that if GOP officials and their allies are serious about this, they might want to give additional thought to the meaning of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
And third, Norquist’s impeachment talk may seem ridiculous on its face – and it is – but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a powerful figure in Republican politics. It was, after all, Norquist’s anti-tax pledge that played a direct role in scuttling any possible super-committee agreement.
The point isn’t that presidential impeachment is a serious idea; it clearly is not. Rather, the point is it’s unsettling to have a major GOP insider, with considerable influence throughout the party, talking up nutty ideas like this.
As Ed Kilgore explained, “[W]hen it comes to taxes and the long-term drive to ‘starve the beast’ of the New Deal/Great Society legacy, Norquist still walks tall in the GOP. So when he lays out getting rid of Medicare as we know it, or a drive to impeach Barack Obama, as strong alternative possibilities for the years just ahead, we should probably pay attention.”