Majority Of Americans Oppose Both Impeachment And The House’s Lawsuit Against Obama

Once again the GOP finds itself on the wrong side of public opinion.

Impeach Obama Signs

A new CNN/ORC International poll shows that a majority of Americans do not believe that the President has overstepped his Constitutional authority, and supports neither impeaching President Obama nor the lawsuit that the House of Representatives intends to file against him:

Washington (CNN) – There’s not a lot of public appetite for a Republican push to sue President Barack Obama, or for calls by some conservatives to impeach him, according to a new national survey.

CNN/ORC International poll released Friday morning also indicates that a small majority of Americans do not believe that Obama has gone too far in expanding the powers of the presidency.

Earlier this month, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, called for Obama’s impeachment, becoming the latest voice on the right to make the suggestion.

But according to the poll, only 35% want Obama impeached, with nearly two-thirds saying the President should not be removed from office.

There’s an obvious partisan divide, with 57% of Republicans but only 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats backing a move to impeach Obama.

“Anti-impeachment sentiment is roughly where it was for past presidents – 67% opposed Bill Clinton’s impeachment in September 1998, and 69% opposed impeaching George W. Bush when a few Democrats began talking about it in 2006,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

“One reason may be that Americans take impeachment very seriously. Only about one in five say that impeachment is a valid response if Congress is dissatisfied with a president’s policies or the way he is handling his job. Nearly eight in 10 say impeachment should be reserved for high crimes and misdemeanors,” Holland adds.

The poll’s release came one day after the House Rules Committee approved – along a party line vote – a resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the President. The GOP controlled House is expected approve it next week.

Boehner and House Republicans plan to sue Obama over his health care law. They claim he violated the Constitution by circumventing Congress and changing the law’s employer mandate on his own.

By a 57%-41% margin, Americans say House Republicans shouldn’t file the suit. As with the question on impeachment, there’s a wide partisan divide over the lawsuit.

When it comes to expanding the power of the presidency, has Obama gone too far? Forty-five percent say yes, with three in 10 saying the President’s actions have been about right, and 22% saying he hasn’t gone far enough.

The difference between overall public sentiment on the issue of impeachment and the sentiment of self-identified Republicans is also reflected in the other poll questions. For example, while only 30% of Democrats and 50% of Independents say that President Obama has “gone too far” in expanding the powers of the Presidency, 80% of Republicans and 70% of conservatives feel that way. Similarly, 12% of Democrats and 43% of Independents say that they support the lawsuit that the House of Representatives is proposing to file against the President, while 75% of Republicans and 64% of conservatives say that they do. This split mirrors the one in two other polls that I made note of last week, and again raises the question of how Republican leadership will be able to navigate the competing pressures of trying to please a base that is so vehemently opposed to the President that they want to remove him from office, and a general public that opposes the idea and would likely punish the GOP for pursuing the strategy.

For the time being, it would appear that the GOP intends to move ahead with its anti-Obama strategy regardless of the political consequences. Yesterday, for example, the House Rules Committee approved the terms of debate for the resolution authorizing the lawsuit, which will likely be voted on by the full House some time next week:

The House Rules Committee on Thursday approved a resolution that would authorize Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) lawsuit against President Obama over his use of executive power.

The panel voted along party lines to move forward with legal against Obama over his delay of the healthcare law’s employer mandate, which Republicans say was outside his authority as president.

The House is expected to approve the lawsuit before lawmakers leave town next week for a five-week summer recess.

The final vote is likely to be contentious, as Democrats have portrayed the lawsuit as a “political stunt” intended to channel GOP opposition to ObamaCare ahead of the midterm elections.

House Democrats are turning the lawsuit into election fodder as well, with their campaign arm on Thursday launching a grassroots call drive aimed at hitting Republicans in 18 districts for spending “millions of taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.”

The Rules Committee must take one final step before the floor vote by approving a rule governing the measure as it heads to the floor. That meeting is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday, with a final vote by the full chamber likely closing the session on Thursday.

Republicans and Democrats clashed heatedly over the intent of Boehner’s lawsuit during the markup Thursday.

“This has nothing to do with the law. This has everything to do with trying to manage some of the extremists in your party — some of the cuckoo clocks that are talking about impeachment [of Obama],” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

“This is about politics. Let’s admit that and treat this for what it is, because I think the American people are sick and tired of these endless investigations,” he said.

Republicans expressed dismay over the term “cuckoo clocks” and frustration with Democrats’ lack of interest invoking the courts to rule on the current balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

“It is incredibly frustrating to me that we can call the defense of … Congress a ‘political stunt,'” said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.).

“We have an obligation to get this done and get this done as best we can. … To suggest that standing up for the power that is not ours, but is the people’s, is a political stunt ihis troubling to me,” he said.

“I would not like to see my side refer to people on your side as cuckoo,” added Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

As far as the merits of the lawsuit itself, Cornell Law School Professor Josh Chafetz is the latest legal analyst to point out that the lawsuit is unlikely to go anywhere:

As numerous legal scholars before me have pointed out, Boehner’s chances of winning the lawsuit are slim to none. A court is likely to find that the House lacks standing, which is to say that it cannot credibly claim that the delay of the employer mandate harms the House as an institution, or that the case presents a political question, outside of the scope of the judiciary’s competence. More tellingly, however, the suit is likely to be moot long before any judicially ordered remedy could be put into effect. After all, lawsuits take time, and even if the House were to win before a district court, any remedy would be stayed until a court of appeals had time to rule. If Boehner won before the court of appeals, then the administration could seek rehearing en banc and then Supreme Court review. By the time that’s all over, it will be at least summer of 2016 — after the employer mandate is currently slated to go into effect, thus mooting the case.

As Chafetz goes on to point out, though, it is obvious that Boehner’s motivation here has nothing to do with legal arguments:

Boehner isn’t looking to win a lawsuit; he’s looking to win the politics. In pushing back against a president, congressional leadership is always at something of a disadvantage: The president in 21st century America simply has a bigger bully pulpit. Boehner’s disadvantage is compounded by two other factors: First, Republicans only control one house of Congress, meaning that they cannot spark public confrontations by passing bills that the president will veto. And second, Boehner has had some trouble corralling his own caucus, meaning that, as he seeks to provoke public confrontations with the president, he needs to keep one eye on quelling confrontations in his own ranks.

Seen from this perspective, filing this lawsuit was a canny and creative move from the Speaker. First, unlike passing a bill, it is something that the House can do on its own, thus obviating any need for Senate buy-in. Second, the suit may help keep his own caucus in line — as Brian Beutler suggested, it may serve as a “relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment,” and Boehner knows that an impeachment drive would almost certainly hurt Republicans far more than it would hurt Obama. Indeed, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) best efforts notwithstanding, there has been relatively little support among House Republicans for impeaching Obama.

Third, and most importantly, filing the lawsuit has already been an effective way of getting the media to convey a sense to the American public that Obama has been stretching the limits of his power

This is largely consistent with my own thoughts on the lawsuit when the entire idea was first announced, and when it became clear that the only thing the lawsuit would focus on would be the seemingly benign decision to provide employers with an extension of time to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for employee health plans.   With the mid-term elections coming up, Boehner and the GOP brain trust believes that focusing on issues of Presidential overreach is a winning political issue for them, and to some extent they may have things right there. When you break the CNN poll down it does show that a bare majority of Independents do believe that the President has unduly expanded the powers of the Presidency, for example. When you combine that number with the fact that this is taken as near gospel among Republican base voters, then it seems like a smart  issue for the GOP to push over the months between now and Election Day, although in all honestly it is an issue that could be emphasized without resorting to the somewhat silly vehicle of a lawsuit. Additionally, as Chafetz notes in his last point, filing the lawsuit puts the issue of Presidential overreach in the news and will likely lead the media to turn it into an issue in races in the red states like North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Alaska where the GOP is likely to have the best chance at the victories necessary for a Senate takeover.

The bigger issue, though, is whether the lawsuit along is going to be sufficient as the “relief valve” to reduce pressure on leadership in the House and, if the GOP captures the body, the Senate to pursue impeachment after the election. The conservative base’s animus for Barack Obama is unlikely to dissipate over the next two years. If anything, it will likely increase as we head into the 2016 elections, especially if the GOP captures the Senate by even a small margin. Additionally, it will likely become apparent fairly quickly that the House lawsuit will be headed nowhere, and that it it will be moving through the legal system very slowly to the point where even the issue of standing might not be fully resolved before the President leaves office. When that happens, and given the fact that they’ll likely be looking for a new issue to use to raise money with, one has to wonder if the Tea Party groups that were behind Ted Cruz’s doomed and foolish shutdown crusade last year, and which seem to be behind his effort this year to force a showdown on the issue of immigration, will turn to impeachment as their next crusade. Given their history of increasing escalation, it would seem to be the only arrow left in their quiver as we head into the Presidential election season. At that point, Republicans in Congress will once again have to choose between doing something that their base demands and not sending their party over a cliff.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    I never understood that American parties have no right to self defense by excluding prospective candidates. Basically, everybody can declare themselves a D or R, and can run in primaries, whether their opinions are compatible with the party or not. The restraint of not forcing more joke candidates like the guy in SC onto the other party is surprising, so actually the winning move might be to force more Cruz types into office and let them shovel the GOP’s grave.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Thanks to the Tea Party the Republican Party does seem to be in a kind of self destruct mode. The fact Boehner is a rather hapless Speaker doesn’t help.

  3. Tom Hilton says:

    Who says they’re the Do-Nothing Congress? They’re going to authorize spending taxpayer money on a meritless partisan lawsuit, and technically that’s doing something, sort of.

  4. stonetools says:

    Again this is the Frankenstein monster syndrome. The Republican establishment whipped up the base by creating the Tea Party movement( Dick Armey, through FreedomWorks, financed the early Tea Party and Fox News and talk radio fostered it). Now we have a Republican base that really believes that the centrist, consensus-seeking Democrat in the White House is black Stalinist tryranny personified and that Bob Dole’s health care proposal is a plot to take over America. If the base believes those things, then it’s completely logical to think that nothing less than impeachment is the appropriate approach to stopping the usurper in the White House. The base is therefore pressing the legislators to proceed with impeachment, before “its too late” and Obama starts issuing executive orders commanding all white women to date black men , all Baptist churches to ordain gay clergy, and setting up death panels in every hospital.

  5. Butch Bracknell says:

    @Tom Hilton: They won’t spend much money, and we’ll get the judicial branch involved in telling the exec and leg branches where the boundaries are. It could wind up hurting the GOP if (a) the suit fails and (b) it’s ruled upon by GOP-appointed judges. It’s hard to accuse the DC Circuit of playing politics, unlike the Supreme Court, which consistently opens itself to that criticism.

  6. george says:

    I think the GOP thinks of impeachment as a kind of traditional entertainment. Sort of like fireworks on the 4th of July – just something you do for the fun of it.

    The lawsuit probably is related to underemployed lawyers in the party.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    There’s an obvious partisan divide, with 57% of Republicans but only 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats backing a move to impeach Obama.

    By a 57%-41% margin, Americans say House Republicans shouldn’t file the suit. As with the question on impeachment, there’s a wide partisan divide over the lawsuit.

    Given their history of increasing escalation, it would seem to be the only arrow left in their quiver as we head into the Presidential election season. At that point, Republicans in Congress will once again have to choose between doing something that their base demands and not sending their party over a cliff.

    Given that the Republican Party has already gone over the cliff, and they now hold (despite incredibly negative approval polling) a strong majority in the House Of Representatives, I don’t see where they have much to lose by finding another cliff to jump from. I believe that if the GOP goes further into the deep end it would probably result in: (1) retaining the House, (2) gaining a few more Senate seats, but not a majority, and (3) toss up for the presidency, probable loss.

  8. Yvette says:

    It’s time for a lawsuit to be filed on behalf of the American people vs House GOP and Speaker Boehner for sedition and obstruction. November’s not going to get here fast enough for most of the people this party is victimizing through their refusal to act. We need a lawyer.

    Like, today.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Butch Bracknell:

    They won’t spend much money,

    Oh, well then, they’ll be willing to pay for it out of their own salaries, right?

    Historically, courts have been very reluctant to involve themselves in fights between the Executive branch and the Legislative branch. Why would now be different? (hint: look at the latest out of the DC circuit)

  10. bill says:

    after a few weeks of these polls i’m just going to have to assume that “most Americans” don’t want anything to happen that requires anything else to happen. …..unless it’s good for everyone.
    in essence, they don’t wish to be disturbed by anything “bad” that would require any action/thought on their part.