Democrats eager to campaign on Obama impeachment and lawsuit

Steve Israel
DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., in May 2014.

Republican voters may like to fantasize about Congress impeaching President Obama from time to time, but not nearly as much as Democratic leaders do.

Congressman Steve Israel, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, gushed to reporters on Tuesday that a combination of loose talk about impeachment among Republicans and the House’s health care lawsuit against Obama are energizing Democrats ahead of November elections. 

“I think that the Republican strategy of lawsuits and approaching impeachment is fundamentally misfiring,” Israel told reporters at a breakfast briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I understand their strategy is intended to chin up their base but it’s having the unintended consequence of moving our base in the midterm election in a big way and also moving persuadable swing voters to us.” 

Israel isn’t the only Democrat raising the topic this week. White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer suggested to reporters on Friday that Republicans could at some point attempt to impeach Obama. On Sunday, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN that Republicans were "on a path to impeachment."

"I think that the Republican strategy of lawsuits and approaching impeachment is fundamentally misfiring."'

Democratic groups have flooded supporters with fundraising e-mails highlighting Boehner’s lawsuit and even the faintest hints of impeachment chatter from Republicans. According to Israel, the DCCC received $1 million in donations on Monday, their best single day of the election cycle, largely due to appeals tied to the two issues. In total, they’ve raised $7.6 million online since the announcement of the House lawsuit from 400,000 separate donations.

Sarah Palin kicked off the latest round of removal talk with an op-ed this month urging conservatives to withhold support from any politician who won’t pledge to impeach Obama over his handling of immigration. While a CNN poll found 57% of Republican respondents support impeachment, there’s little appetite for it among GOP leaders in Washington. Both parties still have vivid memories of the 1998 elections, when voters punished Republicans for their unpopular decision to impeach President Bill Clinton.

“No, no, no, no,” Congressman Greg Walden, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico when asked whether the House would initiate impeachment proceedings. Boehner told reporters on Tuesday that there were “no plans” to remove Obama, calling the idea “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

"We have no plans to impeach to the president, we have no future plans. It's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House."'

Moving forward, Israel said Democrats would not only highlight impeachment calls from Republicans, which are few and far between, but challenge Republicans to rule out the idea entirely. He cited an appearance by Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was recently elected House Majority Whip, on Fox News Sunday in which he said that "the White House wants to talk about impeachment and they're trying to fundraise off that," but declined repeatedly to take the idea off the table.

Israel sounded so enthusiastic about impeachment, which he mentioned at least 10 times during the briefing by msnbc's count, that one reporter asked whether he actually hoped Republicans would try to remove Obama from office.

“No, it’s horrific!” he said. “It’s not our strategy, I do not write Scalise’s talking points … they’re pushing this because they believe it in their souls or because they believe it in their political calculations.” 

Despite Boehner and Walden’s comments, Israel said Republican leaders are too concerned about primaries to decisively disown impeachment. 

"They wake up every morning thinking about Eric Cantor’s loss, they go to bed every night thinking about Eric Cantor’s loss, and they spend all the hours in between trying to figure out how they can get to the right of Eric Cantor,” Israel said.