Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who plans within two weeks to announce if he will run for president, said today that if President Obama doesn’t change his mind and order his Justice Department to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, Republicans in Congress should strike back and even consider impeachment proceedings.
“I believe the House Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath, and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job,” said Gingrich. “His job is to enforce the rule of law and for us to start replacing the rule of law with the rule of Obama is a very dangerous precedent.”
It’s difficult to count the problems with Gingrich’s proposal. For starters, Holder’s letter announcing that DOJ will not defend DOMA in court specifically states that DOMA will “continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch.” The only effect of Holder’s announcement is that the Department of Justice will no longer submit legal briefs supporting an unconstitutional injustice in court.
More importantly, if the House does take Gingrich up on his suggestion, it will also need to impeach conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. In 1990, then-acting Solicitor General Roberts refused to defend a federal affirmative action law after he successfully convinced the George H.W. Bush Administration that the law was unconstitutional. He failed to convince the Supreme Court, however, and the law was upheld. By declining to defend DOMA, the Obama Administration is following the exact same approach embraced by Roberts.
Gingrich’s plan to defund Attorney General Holder in retaliation for Holder’s invocation of the Roberts Rule is equally absurd. The Attorney General oversees thousands of federal prosecutors, law enforcement officers and anti-terrorism officials. All of these essential personnel would be handicapped if the Justice Department were suddenly decapitated to serve Gingrich’s petty vendetta.
Moreover, Gingrich’s grandstanding on the defense of marriage is a bit ironic.
Gingrich has immediately backtracked. “Gingrich never raised impeachment nor did he say we were in a constitutional crisis,” a Gingrich spokesman said. Gingrich said Obama should “live up to his constitutional obligations, but impeachment is clearly not an appropriate action,” the spokesman added. “His remarks, as can be seen in the video, were to illustrate the hypocrisy of the media and the left.”