Over the course of his presidency, Obama has faced threats of impeachment by House Republicans. They have threatened impeachment for spearheading policies such as Obamacare, immigration amnesty, and as of recently, requiring background checks on some gun sales. The recent move to require background checks on gun sales stems from the recent flare of gun violence, with the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon weighing in heavily on this decision. House Republicans threaten impeachment on the grounds that Obama is abusing his power of executive order, a rule issued by the president to an executive agency that has the full force of law. An executive order circumvents the process of passing a piece of legislation through the Congress, an often lengthy process.
Although executive orders are not explicitly defined in the Constitution, they are legal and have much historical precedent. The legality of executive orders are derived from Article II of the Constitution, which states “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”
Executive orders are nothing new or controversial; every president except William Henry Harrison has used this power. Some past executive orders include President John F. Kennedy barring racial discrimination in federal housing and employment, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatching federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect African-American students in the process of desegregating the all-white Central High School. The problem isn’t even that Obama has issued an unreasonable amount of executive orders. Former Republican President George W. Bush had issued more executive orders than President Obama at the time this article was written, Bush with 291 executive orders and Obama with 216 orders. With the checks and balances system, executive orders are never an ultimatum. Congress still has the power to weaken executive orders by decreasing funding or challenging the order itself. However, Congress insists on pushing for Obama’s impeachment when faced with pieces of legislation they disagree with.
Impeachment is the process of removing an individual from office due to accusation of unlawful activity. In the U.S., as defined by Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, the president may be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Has Obama participated in any of these activities by proposing legislation or using his power of executive order? Of course not. Most Americans are not even in favor of impeaching the president. According to YouGov, an international market research firm, only 35% of Americans believe the president should be impeached. But of course, this hasn’t stopped the accusations, nor the efforts of Congress to impeach the president.
If Congress truly wanted to be a serious and effective force in opposing executive orders, they need to perform their designated function in this democracy. They need to directly address the policies that they are trying to oppose in an effort to do what is best for the country. Threatening impeachment is simply an inappropriate response to policy and stances where disagreements exist. A democracy requires dissent and differing viewpoints to be an accurate representation of the people. Impeachment only distracts from the bigger task at hand: the search for compromise.