President Barack Obama is “perilously close” to impeachment, Sen. Tom Coburn told a town hall crowd this week.
The Oklahoma Republican qualified his remarks by saying the Obama administration suffers more from incompetence than it does from willful violations of law.
Still, Coburn said at the Muskogee event that although Barack Obama is a “personal friend,” he is on track to throw the country into a constitutional crisis and that perhaps a constitutional convention should be called to rewrite the government’s foundational document.
It was a passionate performance in front of an applauding conservative crowd from a guy who’s supposedly not running for re-election.
“What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president, and that’s called impeachment,” Coburn said, in response to a question about Obama’s accountability. “That’s not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means. I think there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration, but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence, of people who are making decisions.
“I believe [an impeachment charge] needs to be evaluated and determined, but thank goodness it doesn’t have to happen in the Senate until they’ve brought charges in the House,” Coburn said. “Those are serious things, but we’re in a serious time. I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to high crimes and misdemeanor, but I think they’re getting perilously close.”
To back his claim of administrative incompetence, Coburn cited the example of Obama’s 15 picks for top Homeland Security vacancies, saying “a general portion of the nominees are absolutely incompetent.”
Despite questions over the legality of the Obama administration, Coburn has taken some positions against tea party conservatives. He is one of the leading voices against trying to shut down the government over funding the health care law (“It’s not an achievable strategy. It’s creating the false impression that you can do something when you can’t. And it’s dishonest,” he said.) and he helped negotiate a permanent fix to federal student loan rates.
Coburn and Obama were both elected to the Senate in 2004 and have been personally cordial since Obama entered the White House, and the Oklahoma Republican said as much to constituents in his talk.
“Barack Obama is a personal friend of mine. He became my friend in the Senate. But that does not mean that I agree in any way with what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. And I quite frankly think he’s in a difficult position he’s put himself in and if it continues, I think we’re going to have another constitutional crisis in terms of the presidency.”
It’s unclear how close the two will remain after Coburn’s claim that Obama could be ousted from office.
Niels Lesniewski has covered the Senate for CQ Roll Call since January 2010, and more recently as a staff writer and resident procedure guru for Roll Call. Niels holds degrees in both government and theater but sometimes can't tell the difference between the two. @nielslesniewski
Meredith Shiner has covered Senate leadership, legislation and everything in between for Roll Call since joining in June 2011, having previously covered Congress and national politics for Politico. @meredithshiner