South Carolina’s only Democratic congressman Jim Clyburn insisted Tuesday that House Republicans will try to impeach President Obama next year if they keep control of the chamber in November’s election.
Democrats have gone on the offensive on the topic ever since the GOP-led House of Representatives voted to file a lawsuit against the president last week. A few popular conservative commentators like Sarah Palin and radio talk show host Mark Levin have publicly called for the president’s impeachment over what they say is his refusal to enforce federal law. But even the most conservative members of Congress have distanced themselves from the idea up to this point.
In a meeting with local reporters Tuesday, Clyburn claimed the House lawsuit is the first step in the process to make a case for eventual impeachment.
“If Republicans maintain control of the House, Barack Obama will be impeached,” he said. “There were 225 votes for this lawsuit, well beyond the 218 (majority) that’s needed to impeach. That’s my expectation. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.”
Audio: Clyburn says Republicans will try to impeach Pres. Obama (3:41)
A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 65 percent of Americans oppose impeachment, although 57 percent of respondents who identified as Republicans were open to the idea. Democrats have been hoping to sway independent voters and mobilize their base with warnings of possible impeachment arguments.
No member of South Carolina’s delegation has publicly said they would vote to impeach the president.
“You don’t get impeached for having bad judgment,” Fifth District Congressman Mick Mulvaney said in a Rock Hill town hall meeting last year.
In a March floor speech, fellow Congressman Trey Gowdy also rejected the idea. “(If) a president does not faithfully execute the law… what are our remedies? Do we use the power of the purse, the power of impeachment? Those are punishments, those are not remedies.”
But Clyburn said the GOP was hoping to diminish Obama’s credibility. “They want to sully and… besmirch the character and the service of Barack Obama,” he said. “They would just love to be able to open a history book years from now and say, ‘Yeah, he may have been the first African-American president. But he was also an impeached president.'”
Impeaching a president requires a majority vote in the House. However, removing a president from office would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which is extremely unlikely given the current power nearly evenly dividing Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.