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Impeachment Power of Congress

As the American population grows more polarized, so does its government. Such a situation is not without consequences. Many polarizing rules in the House of Representatives, which increase the cleavage between the Republican and Democratic parties, have been instituted in the last few years, like the famous motion-to-vacate that cost McCarthy’s speakership. Nevertheless, many constitutional powers are being abused in a polarized Congress, especially its authority to impeach the President, the Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors, including treason and bribery.

Check and Balances

Check and balances is a governmental structure separating the executive, legislative and judicial branches, in which every branch has specific responsibilities. These powers exist to prevent one branch from overpowering the others. In the United States, the presidency, Congress and Supreme Court represent these branches, respectively.

The Supreme Court’s check on Congress is its ability to declare a congressional law unconstitutional. In return, the legislative branch can impeach Supreme Court judges. The judicial branch’s check on the presidency is its ability to declare its acts unconstitutional.

The Presidency balances with Congress because of its veto power against the branch's legislation. However, Congress holds the power to impeach the president.

The impeachment proceedings are simple. The House of Representatives votes on articles of a federal official’s impeachment. If they are adopted by the majority of the representatives, the official is impeached. Then, the case goes to the Senate, where an impeachment trial is led by the Vice-President. The chief justice of the United States exceptionally leads the presidential impeachment trials. If two-thirds of the senators present at the trial find the official guilty, the official is removed from office.

The Use of the Impeachment Power

Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas was impeached by the House after two failed attempts. Five other members of the executive branch face impeachment charges, including President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Members of the House also threatened to impeach Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Republican representatives have used impeachment as a form of retaliation following the Democratic Party's impeachment trials against Donald Trump.

Three distinctive opinions about Impeachment’s Legitimacy

There are three main opinions about the current use of impeachment.

The first one is shared among Republicans, including Rep. of Tennessee Mike Green, who believe impeachment can be used against an executive member who is considered incompetent, which can be considered a high crime, as he affirmed last month.

The second opinion was shared by legal scholars in an open letter to Speaker Johnson, stating impeachment should only be charged for extreme misconduct.

The last one is from President Gerald Ford. In brief, impeachable offenses are the ones the House judges legitimate.

Pr. Sarah Binder from George Washington University stated one of the main dangers of the frequent use of impeachment proceedings is that politicians may not feel restrained by impeachment proceedings over time.  


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