A rump group of House Republicans are tired of waiting for answers from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. -- they want him impeached and will formally introduce their charges Thursday. As Roll Call previously reported, a small group of GOP lawmakers have been drafting articles of impeachment for Holder over a string of controversies, including a Department of Justice refusal to turn over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious, a refusal to uphold certain laws -- namely the Defense of Marriage Act, the Controlled Substances Act and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 -- and a refusal to prosecute IRS officials who accessed tax records of political donors and candidates without authorization. The articles of impeachment also charge that Holder provided false testimony to Congress -- a "clear violation" of law.
Congressional Republicans are thrilled to be on the offensive, attacking the Affordable Care Act, keeping Democrats on the defensive, and uniting the GOP caucus behind a common purpose. Their disastrous government shutdown is fading in the rear-view mirror.
Anything House Republicans can do to distract attention from the party's message? Maybe an initiative to remind the American mainstream just how nutty some members of the congressional GOP can be? This ought to do the trick.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is apparently the lead sponsor of the effort, but he's found 10 Republican allies to co-sponsor the articles of impeachment: Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
If successful, this would be the first impeachment of a sitting cabinet official in 137 years, and only the second ever in U.S. history.
But Holder probably shouldn't worry too much -- he's not going to be impeached, and it's likely that even House Republican leaders find this distraction pointless and unhelpful.
That said, I'm struck by how weak the Impeachment Brigade's argument really is. The Justice Department turned over tens of thousands of documents related to Fast and Furious; the administration has the same powers of prosecutorial discretion that other administrations have enjoyed; refusing to defend DOMA in court isn't the same thing as refusing to uphold laws; there's no evidence of IRS officials breaking federal laws; and if Holder's accusers have proof of perjury, they've hidden it well.
Still, one assumes this little gambit will be a nice fundraising stunt for those involved, and it's easy to imagine Democrats taking advantage of the distraction to make Republicans look foolish.