Now that the Election is over we can examine the results.
Less people voted in this election than did in the 2012 Midterm Election. In fact only 37% of those who could vote voted; 63% stayed at home. The pattern seems to be large scale voting during presidential elections and highly limited voting on midterm ones. That gives Republicans the advantage during non-presidential elections and the Democrats have it in Presidential Election years. It makes for a crazy pattern with Congressional gridlock.
In 2015 the Republicans will have a majority in both Houses of Congress. More states will have Republican control of the legislature and governorship. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for election. The Republicans won 246 seats, a gain of 13 from the previous House. In the Senate the Republicans added 7 seats, giving them the majority in that body.
Elections were held for governors in 36 of the 50 states. The Republicans won 24 and now control 36 state governorships. The election left the Democrats with the smallest number of state legislatures since the Great Depression in 1929.
The President has met with the new majority and minority leaders in both Houses: Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid for the Senate and John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi for the House. President Obama stated that they will be able to get necessary work done. He may be overly optimistic.
House Speaker John Boehner stated in a press interview that if the President plays with matches he can get burnt, implying that if Obama issues executive orders the Republicans will react negatively.
The cooperation should be interesting since the goals of both parties are miles apart.
The Democrats are concerned about income inequality and tax reform. They want to raise taxes on the upper ten percent and increase entitlement programs, like social security and Medicare. They want immigration reform, particularly for non-citizens whose children were born in this country and are United States citizens. They are also deeply concerned about global warming and want actions taken to slow it down. They are also against the Keystone XL Pipeline which would cross the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico carrying oil-rich mud and other toxins, arguing that spills could easily occur poisoning local water- tables. They would also like to have background checks on all people purchasing weapons.
The Republicans, on the other hand, very much want the Keystone Pipeline installed. They want to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and allow for more petroleum production. They do not believe in global warming. The new chairman of the Senate committee that deals with that subject has stated that changes in climate are determined by God and that man has nothing to do with it. Pollution presumably occurs by itself. The Republican idea of tax reform is to lower taxes for the upper twenty percent and spend less on entitlement programs and more on the military. They would also like to limit weapon laws more than they already are.
If you put these two groups in a room and had them try to reach a compromise on any of the above issues, on what could they reach a compromise? For those Republicans on the far-right, many of them have stated that their definition of compromise is to have the other side accept their position. What we are looking forward to from January 2015 through December 2016 is far more gridlock that we have seem in the prior congressional session. Virtually nothing will be done in terms of new needed laws. The one exception might be a declaration of war against ISIS.
What many Republicans seem to want to do is hold investigatory sessions on all Democratic actions with which they disagree. With the Republicans now in charge of both Houses of Congress we could conceivably spend the two years of the next Congressional session in committee investigations instead of passing any laws.
Once President Obama begins taking executive action in immigration and some of these other areas where the Democrats want action the Republican agenda will be to impeach the President. In fact the threat is now in the air. It has already been made. But there is not enough time left in the current session to carry this out. If it does come about in the next session the Republicans do not have the 2/3 majority vote in the Senate to successfully bring it about.
There have been two cases of presidential impeachment in the history of the United States, both failed. There could have been a third but in the case of Richard Nixon, he resigned from his office one day before he could be impeached. The first such case concerned Andrew Johnson who became president upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. The second was William Jefferson Clinton.
Andrew Johnson had been a Democratic Congressman from Tennessee who refused to support the Southern cause during the Civil War. When Lincoln ran for a second term Johnson was chosen as his Vice Presidential candidate. They ran at that point under the guise of the Union Party. With Lincoln’s assassination Johnson became the 17th President of the United States. The Radical Republicans who controlled the Congress attempted to use him to get extreme legislation passed. President Johnson attempted to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps with a more moderate policy. In 1867 the Republicans passed the Tenure of Office Act over the President’s veto which required that he get the advice and consent or approval of the Senate before he could fire anyone on his cabinet. Johnson replaced his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, and the House of Representatives voted Articles of Impeachment accusing him of “High Crimes & Misdemeanors.” The case was presented to the Senate on March 2, 1868. The trial ended with acquittal. Seven Radical Republicans could not being themselves to vote guilty. One vote less than the needed 2/3 majority was cast.
William Jefferson Clinton (Bill Clinton) was a Democratic President who had a Republic Congress for the last six years of his presidency. He was impeached on February 12, 1999. Clinton was charged with one count of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice. Guilt of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required a 2/3 vote by the Senate, 67 Senators had to find him guilty. Fifty Senators voted guilty on the obstruction of justice charge and forty-five voted so on the perjury charge. No Democrats voted guilty. President Clinton was acquitted; the 2/3 majority was not reached. In fact, not all Republican Senators agreed on the charge of guilty.
In both cases Republican Congresses had attempted to impeach a Democratic president that would not do their will. In both cases the Congress was attempting to take over primacy in the government of the United States. And in both cases the principle of checks and balances remained in force.
In the case of the Republican president, Richard Nixon, the situation was different. He was clearly guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Nixon was fully engaged in the Watergate scandal and resigned from the presidency the day before the House of Representatives was to bring up a bill of impeachment. Had Nixon been impeached he would have been found guilty.
The two impeachment trials were political in nature. If Barak Obama were to be impeached it would be for the same reason and the results would be the same. The Republicans would have to have a 2/3 majority in the Senate for it to be otherwise. They do not nearly have that number and the vote for innocence or guilt would run along party lines with the Republicans voting one way and the Democrats the other. Everything here would be along party lines.
The next two years should be interesting. Hopefully something will get done. But that is doubtful. There is no way real compromise will be achieved. Some deals will probably be made but the Republican hostility or frustration level should reach the clouds. Of course the Republicans can always shut down the government again by not voting the necessary funds for it to operate.
The probability is very high that the Republicans will so alienate the American people that the Democrats will sweep into the Presidency and Congress in 2016.