By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans have no plans to begin impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner declared on Tuesday, putting the blame on Democrats for stirring up pre-midterm election tensions in Washington.
Boehner is, however, hoping this week to pass Republican legislation that would authorize a lawsuit, claiming Obama overstepped his powers in ordering unilateral changes to his landmark healthcare law known as “Obamacare.”
Any such lawsuit could take years to wind through the court system.
Meanwhile, Obama is weighing whether to take executive action to scale back deportations of some undocumented residents, a move that would further rachet up tensions with Republicans, who have blocked comprehensive changes to U.S. immigration law, insisting the president take stronger action to stop the flow of illegal migrants.
“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said in response to a reporter’s question.
He noted that it was the Democrats themselves who have been raising the notion of a Republican impeachment effort, using it to incite liberal voters and win campaign contributions for Democratic candidates running for re-election to Congress in November.
“It’s all a scam started by Democrats,” Boehner said.
Last week, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters that unilateral action by Obama on immigration reform “will certainly up the likelihood that they (Republicans) would consider impeachment.”
Since Obama’s first term, some conservative Republicans have mused about impeachment, which would be the initial step in a two-step process that allows Congress to remove a sitting president.
Under the U.S. Constitution, if the House were to approve articles of impeachment, the Senate would then have to vote on whether to convict the president of any charges brought by the House and thus remove him from office.
The last effort to impeach a president came in 1998 and 1999, when Republicans attempted to remove President Bill Clinton from office on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in connection with his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The Senate failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to remove Clinton, and the episode caused enough negative fallout to allow Democrats to win back five Senate seats in the 2000 election, wiping out a Republican majority.
(Additional reporting By David Lawder; editing by Gunna Dickson)