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Impeachment has a long history as a partisan process

Impeachment is a topic that is often discussed at the federal level — but recently, state legislatures have been pursuing impeachment more frequently.
Impeachment has a long history as a partisan process
Posted at 6:17 PM, Sep 06, 2023

Impeachment is a word that's thrown around a lot in Congress.

Lately, it's been House Republicans wanting to impeach President Biden, or a member of his cabinet. But impeachment is a process state lawmakers are turning to more often.

In the Texas Senate, the impeachment trial for Attorney General Ken Paxton got underway this week. The Republican-led state House voted to impeach him in May on 20 articles, including bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and dereliction of duty.

"The allegations in the articles reveal that the state's top lawyer engaged in conduct designed to advance the economic interests and legal positions of a friend and donor to the determent of innocent Texans," said State Rep. Andrew Murr during his opening argument of Paxton's Senate trial.

That type of wrongdoing is arguably what impeachment is for — removing an allegedly corrupt public official from office. But on the flip side, it can also be used in a partisan way to target a political rival.

In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers are talking about impeaching the state's newest Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz. She was sworn in in August, flipping the state's high court from conservative to liberal. She hasn't heard a single case yet, but some Republicans argue her campaign comments calling the state's congressional map "rigged" are worthy of investigation and potential removal from office.

SEE MORE: Sen. McConnell not on board with potential Biden impeachment trial

In Oklahoma, a group of House Democrats want an impeachment investigation into State Superintendent Ryan Walters. Among their list of concerns, they say his inflammatory language toward public school teachers has led to bomb threats in Tulsa, jeopardizing safety at school.

And in Georgia, one state senator is spearheading an effort to try to impeach Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. But Gov. Brian Kemp has rejected that as an unwarranted partisan attack.

"The bottom line is that in the state of Georgia, as long as I'm governor, we're going to follow the law and the Constitution regardless of who it helps or harms politically," said Gov. Kemp.

The use of impeachment as a partisan tool goes all the way back to 1868. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson on charges he violated the Constitution, but the Senate didn't have the votes to convict. And with the hyper-partisan political environment we have today, the use of it as a political weapon is unlikely to die down anytime soon.

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