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Congress finally takes up 'high crimes and misdemeanors'

Saying he and his constituents are tired of presidents violating the Constitution to achieve their political goals, a Florida congressman is bringing forth legislation to define “high crimes and misdemeanors” and what actions ought to trigger impeachment proceedings against a president.

“Every time we go back to the district and even before I ran, people said, ‘The three branches of government are out of balance. When is Congress going to stand up and have some accountability and rein in the power of the executive branch?'” said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

The congressman said the thirst for power in the executive branch is a longstanding problem that’s only getting worse.

“The executive branch has been growing stronger and stronger over the past two or three decades, but this administration with President Obama seems to be on steroids,” said Yoho, who argued that enough is enough.

“I think the last straw was on Nov. 20 with the executive order on amnesty overreach of the president,” Yoho said. “Over 30 times in a six-year period of time, he said he did not have the authority to change the law on immigration, yet he went ahead and did.”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.:

Federal District Court Judge John Hanen placed an injunction on the Obama orders and recently shot down an Obama administration attempt to activate the program while its constitutionality is sorted out elsewhere in the federal system.

Yoho said immigration is just one issue where the executive branch is aggressively challenging its constitutional limits.

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“Pretty much every week we’re up here, we hear one of the legislators or the news talk about the constitutional crisis we’re facing,” he said. “It’s in so many different areas, whether it’s religious freedoms or redefining marriage or trampling on states’ rights.

“At some point, we’ve got to draw that line that says from this point forward, all presidents – I don’t care if they’re Republican, Democrat, from the planet Mars – they’re going to be held to the confines of the Constitution,” he said.

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Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Yoho is now seeking to define high crimes and misdemeanors. His legislation would include “failing to take care that the laws be faithfully executed through signing statements or systematic policies of non-enforcement.” Another would be “substituting executive agreements for treaties.”

In addition, Yoho’s bill would also target presidents who start military action without receiving authorization from Congress, violate appropriations laws to force money toward their political priorities or defy congressional subpoenas for documents or testimony.

Yoho insists this is not designed to kickstart impeachment proceedings against President Obama, but he admitted Obama’s actions are in many ways the inspiration for this.

“If we had a chief executive that would faithfully execute the laws … this wouldn’t be an issue, and we could get on with America’s business,” Yoho said. “But when you have to play like a babysitter and say, ‘No you can’t do that’ over and over and over again, the American people are tired of it.”

He added, “The beauty of this is that this is not attacking this president. It’s attacking this president and all future presidents.”

Much like how teams enter a sporting event by acknowledging the rules that guide the game, Yoho said it’s time for all political players to recognize and obey the Constitution as the rule book for our government.

“Unlike football, which is a game, you’re talking about the United States of America and preserving our Constitution so that we don’t have to talk about a constitutional crisis in the future,” he said.

Non-partisan critics may be quick to point out that America’s founders deliberately left “high crimes and misdemeanors” vague so as not to dictate to all future leaders what constitutes an impeachable offense.

“The founders actually did make it very vague [rather than saying] it’s based on incompetence or it’s based on ignorance; they started to play around with that, but what they found is those are very loosely defined. So they allowed Congresses to go ahead and define those in the future,” Yoho said.

And that’s what the congressman believes his bill does now. He believes support for his plan ought to be unanimous.

“There’s no reason for any representative of the American people, I don’t care what state or why party, Democrat or Republican, should shy away from this,” he said. “This holds all presidents accountable.”

Yoho said this warning also applies to any future Republican president who seeks to undo unpopular or unconstitutional actions of Obama through illegitimate means.

“If we got a Republican president in 2016 and they didn’t want to enforce parts of Obamacare … and they wave their pen and their phone and say, ‘Nope, we’re not going to do that.’ We have got to hold them accountable,” Yoho said.

In addition to Obama’s unilateral action on immigration, Yoho is very concerned about the president’s attempts to go it alone on a nuclear deal with Iran.

“Many of the legislators feel (his bill) is needed to resist an executive encroachment on their authority,” Yoho said. “I think what you’re seeing is a natural reaction to the president’s overreach in many areas and a desire for the Senate to re-assert it’s traditional and constitutional role.”

Yoho stressed once again that the legislation should not make any president nervous but that it gives them a clear guide as to which actions will not be tolerated.

“This is not about impeaching,” he said. “This is about following the rule of law. This is a notice that says, ‘From this point forward, there will be no impeachment as long as you stay within these parameters.”