A Republican congressman from Texas recently told a gathering of tea party supporters that the impeachment of President Barack Obama "needs to happen," but when queried as to why, he could not say.
The comment comes from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), a women's doctor who took office in 2003, stepping into the seat held by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R). Amid a recent grilling over his vote to extend the U.S. debt ceiling, Burgess rebuffed tea party members, insisting that allowing the nation to default would have been much worse than a credit ratings downgrade, according to The Fort Worth Star Telegram.
"I didn't want the country to go through what it is going through right now," Burgess reportedly said. "It's not the president's downgrade. The downgrade affected the whole country."
That vote shouldn't have come as a surprise to tea party Republicans. In times of less dire financial straits -- namely when the Republican party controlled Congress and the presidency -- Burgess was in favor of raising the debt ceiling every time he was asked, voting yes in 2003 and in 2004, and additionally voicing support for increases in 2006 and 2007, though official votes were not taken.
All told, Burgess has been in favor of raising the debt limit over $3.3 trillion to finance everything from foreign wars, massive, budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations and an unfunded prescription drug benefit plan that prohibited the government from negotiating for lower prices. Had he come to Washington just two years earlier, that figure would likely be closer to $4 trillion, which is approximately how much Republicans added to the nation's debt limit from 2001-2008.
But it was his vote on the most recent increase that sparked the tea party's ire. Responding to questions, Burgess reportedly vowed to resist future debt ceiling increases, saying that Congress should instead try to amend the Constitution to force balanced budgets and stave off future tax increases.
That position became a favorite among tea party supporters toward the end of the debt limit debate, with some even suggesting that Republicans could force the Senate to accept the plan. That argument faced several logical barriers however, being that constitutional amendments take years to complete and must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The next debt ceiling increase will be taken up by Congress in 2013 -- well before an amendment could be accomplished.
Then Burgess fielded a suggestion that the House move to impeach Obama. "It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up," he reportedly said. "No question about that."
The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 4, requires a conviction on "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" before an office-holder can be impeached. President Obama faces no such charges.
Asked to clarify, "Burgess said he wasn't sure whether the proper charges to bring up articles of impeachment against Obama were there, but he didn't rule out pursuing such a course," reporter Aman Batheja concluded.