When I diaried a few weeks back urging Cindy Sheehan not to run against Nancy Pelosi, in the back of my mind, and in the back of many of our minds, is what the possible negative consequences for the impeachment movement would come about by Cindy's declaration to run.
I'm not going to delve into what happened yesterday in John Conyer's office, except to address Sheehan's statement from yesterday...because it is potentially disruptive statement on impeachment.
Yesterday, Cindy said the following:
If Nancy Pelosi doesn't do her constitutionally mandated job by midnight tonight, tomorrow I will announce that I am going to run against her.
That statement is untrue. It can't be said any plainer than that.
As Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is not "constitutionally mandated" to begin impeachment proceedings. There is no such requirement for the Speaker.
Let's start with the actual text of the Constitution shall we?
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 reads:
The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
In other words, the power to impeach resides in the House, not with the Speaker. Moreover, the Constitution says nothing about being required to use that power.
There is also an oddity in Cindy's statement later on, which she has said before:
Nancy Pelsoi had no authority to take it off the table.
Quite true. The Speaker does not have authority to take impeachment off the table, because the Speaker doesn't have the authority to do anything with respect to impeachment.
There's a logical inconsistency here. Speaker Pelosi is supposed to do her "constitutionally mandated" job, but it's a job she has no authority to do.
Simply put, the power resides in the House. Having gone through one of these just ten years ago, you'd think we'd all understand it better. The power of the House looks like this:
The power of impeachment translates into the power to indict. The House, through the Judiciary Committee, conducts investigation and gathers evidence. At the proper time, the House assembles the evidence into individual indictments or charges known as Articles of Impeachment. Each article requires a majority vote of the House to pass to the Senate. Once impeached, the officer is on trial.
And the full chronology of the process looks something like this:
- The House Judiciary Committee deliberates over whether to initiate an impeachment inquiry.
- The Judiciary Committee adopts a resolution seeking authority from the entire House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry. Before voting, the House debates and considers the resolution. Approval requires a majority vote.
- The Judiciary Committee conducts an impeachment inquiry, possibly through public hearings. At the conclusion of the inquiry, articles of impeachment are prepared. They must be approved by a majority of the Committee.
- The House of Representatives considers and debates the articles of impeachment. A majority vote of the entire House is required to pass each article. Once an article is approved, the President is, technically speaking, "impeached" -- that is subject to trial in the Senate.
- The Senate holds trial on the articles of impeachment approved by the House. The Senate sits as a jury while the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.
- At the conclusion of the trial, the Senate votes on whether to remove the President from office. A two-thirds vote by the Members present in the Senate is required for removal.
- If the President is removed, the Vice-President assumes the Presidency under the chain of succession established by Amendment XXV.
Simply put, the House has the power...but it is not required to use it.
And certainly, Speaker Pelosi is not the one who has the authority one way or another.
If we are going to get serious about impeachment, we need to understand it, we need to rationalize it, and we need fight with reason.
And saying Speaker Pelosi is somehow to blame for a public statement about impeachment being "off the table" and she's not "doing her constitutionally mandated" job doesn't help matter. It hurts.
So as we go forward, let's drop that talking point. And let's get to the real talking point:
House of Representatives, it's time to investigate.
And if necessary, indict.
In the form of articles of impeachment.
UPDATE: Many of you have said, in response, that Pelosi's oath of office to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic is what is meant by not doing her job. My response would be that, against, the oath does not equal a "constitutionally mandated" job. We're talking about the Constitution here, not the oath taken to protect. And I hasten to point out that if it is the oath that is being questioned, then there are many, many more targets than Nancy Pelosi. Specifically, any member of Congress who has not yet co-sponsored H.Res. 333 is guilty of violating their oath under that standard.