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How much is impeachment process costing taxpayers?

by Leo Lynch | January 1, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.

If we should chose to, we could consider the recent impeachment activities in Washington as a review of Political Science 101.

That probably wasn't what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had in mind, but we are some where between a review of impeachment law and wondering if we are seeing a new trend in how to embarrass a sitting president. If the goal was intended to try to force a resignation, that didn't work with former President Clinton and it hasn't worked here. The final outcome of the current situation may not be known until next year, but few experts on politics would bet the outcome will result in a Senate trial completing the process of removing the president from office.

I confess to knowing virtually nothing about what the Constitution outlines for the process of impeachment. My older Webster's 9th Collegiate Dictionary (copyright, 1984) had several applicable definitions of "impeach," however. The one that corresponds to this situation and/or Clinton's states, "to charge with a crime or misdemeanor." The next definition is a bit more specific "to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal (congress) with misconduct in office." The part of the process we have been witnessing on television has been the first step -- the House has held a series of hearings, followed by a vote. In this case, it is no surprise at the outcome. The Democrat Party has the majority of the seats and a simple majority voted in favor of impeachment on two articles.

The House Speaker must send the results of the vote to the Senate for the process to continue. You probably wouldn't find a handful of Americans who don't know the outcome of the vote, but very few of us knew that without officially advising the Senate leadership of the vote and requesting a trial, the system breaks down.

There was a very informative article on the impeachment process by Noah Feldman in his "Politics and Policy" column titled "Trump Isn't Impeached Until the House Tells the Senate." I found it on the internet -- he is a Harvard law professor who writes for Bloomberg. If you have time to look it up, it is quite informative on the subject of impeachment and clearly explains it is a "process" and not just a House vote. Our process, as outlined in the Constitution, is actually drafted after the English practice where the House of Commons impeached and the House of Lords conducted the trial. The trial (our Senate trial) cannot take place if the House does not inform the Senate.

As a nation, we have now had a second impeachment hearing in the last 25 years. The new situation prompts a question about the Clinton impeachment because political party control of the House and Senate can be a factor. Bill Clinton was the president from Jan. 20, 1993, until January 20, 2001, and the impeachment vote was in December 1998 -- if I understand it correctly. This would, therefore, be in Clinton's second term. Since Clinton could not run again, it is unlike our current situation where the Democratic leadership in the House could be trying to use the timing to influence the election next fall. One could easily conclude this set of circumstances is more about embarrassing Donald Trump and the Republican Party than about the eventual outcome of the process.

As we know from history, Bill Clinton was not removed from office and even though this is on his record, it probably hasn't cost him any speaking fees since these are normally paid by partisan groups. In Trump's case, if he is re-elected, we could be reminded of the House's vote for the next four years.

We currently have a House of Representatives with a Democrat majority wanting to oust a Republican president when the Senate is controlled by a majority of Republicans. It is important to remind ourselves that both House and Senate were in the hands of the Republican Party during Democrat President Clinton's trial. The Senate Majority Leader McConnell believes Trump will be acquitted, so we have a lot of political games going on about procedures, etc. This apparently is Washington politics at its worst but it does give the press a lot to write about.

Part of House Speaker Pelosi's complaint about the Senate delay has been her selection of procedures depends on the Senate's rules for the trial. About the only thing we can be assured of at this point is the two-week duration of the trial.

If this impeachment process continues, and eventually it will, a select group of "managers" will be appointed. In Clinton's trial, a familiar name appears in the list of 13 managers -- Asa Hutchinson, our current governor. On the staff of advisers to Clinton's lawyer (Cheryl Mills) was another familiar Arkansan -- Dale Bumpers. This is apparently an opportunity for one's political career to develop or be recognized by one's political party.

When the smoke has cleared in 2020 and the trial is concluded, it would be nice if the American voters could see how much money and how many man/woman hours were devoted to attach this label to Donald Trump's legacy. Even after the elections are held in the fall, we may never be able to estimate how much this display of political posturing cost the taxpayers. At least by then we will know how many seats changed party affiliation in both chambers. Both parties will, of course, have their take on the outcome of the elections win or lose.

Donald Trump's followers will not be fazed by his supposed crimes. Whether the necessary percent of voters look at his record of achievements and cast their votes in his favor might be one of the questions that will entice the Las Vega's gamblers to establish betting odds for those who express their views -- and back it up with money.

As a taxpayer, I am embarrassed that Washington can take our money and use it so carelessly. As an American, I am concerned that our political system is willing to resort to this level to try to keep a potentially winning president from running a second time. And, as a "person of faith," I must admit that my faith in our system of government has been shaken to its very core by this event.

My daily prayer is that we be a strong, respected and humble nation.

"GOD bless America."


Editor's note: Leo Lynch, an award-winning columnist, is a native of Benton County and has deep roots in northwest Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author. He is a retired industrial engineer and former Justice of the Peace.

Editorial on 01/01/2020

Print Headline: How much is impeachment process costing taxpayers?


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