On Saturday, the state convention of South Dakota’s Republican Party passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Barack Obama.
According to a report by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the resolution charges that Obama has “violated his oath of office in numerous ways.” For specific examples, the resolution names Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban combatants for captive US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, his assertion that Americans who like their insurance can keep it under Obamacare, and the recent release by the Environmental Protection Agency of new regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
“I’ve got a thick book on impeachable offenses of the president,” said Allen Unruh, the Sioux Falls resident, political activist, and former congressional candidate who sponsored the resolution. He also called on South Dakota to “send a symbolic message that liberty shall be the law of the land.”
The Argus Leader reported that some other delegates disagreed with the resolution — David Wheeler of Beadle County said it would make the convention “look petty, like we can’t achieve our political goals through the political process” — but ultimately it passed with a respectable majority of 191 to 176 votes.
Other voices in South Dakota state politics were not amused.
“The South Dakota Republican Party has had many opportunities to put working families and the middle class first, but instead they want to impeach the President,” South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Deb Knecht said in a statement yesterday. She also called on Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to reject the resolution.
Noem herself spoke before South Dakota’s Republican convention just hours before the resolutions were voted on. Afterwards, her office released a statement that “the best way for Congress to hold the president accountable is to continue aggressive committee oversight and investigations into the administration’s actions.”
The idea of impeaching the President has been floating around Republican circles across the country for a while now. Just this past week, Huffington Post reported that Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) mused that the House could “probably” muster the votes to impeach Obama if the vote was brought to the floor. “He’s just absolutely ignoring the Constitution and ignoring the laws and ignoring the checks and balances,” Barletta said on the Gary Sutton’s radio show, following a discussion of immigration.
Back in 2013, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) made sure that every member of the House of Representatives was sent a copy of the book “Impeachable Offenses: The case for removing Barack Obama from office” by Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told his constituents that “if we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it,” while Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) said at an event that impeachment “would be a dream come true.” And just this past April, Sam Clovis, an Iowa Republican who was aiming to be the party’s candidate for one of the state’s two Senate seats, asserted that impeachment was justified but unlikely to succeed only because Obama is black.
Stockman himself once threatened to bring articles of impeachment to the floor if Obama used his executive authority to enact measures to prevent gun violence — a point on which he was joined by Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) — while Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said Obama “ought to be impeached” over the Benghazi scandal.
Other reasons for impeaching Obama that Congressional Republicans have put forward include forcing the President to show his birth certificate, for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, and as a threat to prevent the federal government from defaulting.
In the United States, articles of impeachment against a president or other government official must first pass the House by a simple majority vote. This means the official has been “impeached,” but it remains up to the Senate to decide by a two-thirds majority vote whether the accused is actually guilty of the charges brought by the articles.
Only two presidents have ever been successfully impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both were ultimately acquitted when the Senate vote fell short of the two-thirds requirement.