A Massachusetts Democrat caused a flap Thursday at a House hearing when he said the real motivation behind Speaker John Boehner's planned lawsuit against President Obama was to appease "cuckoo clocks" in the GOP who are calling for impeachment.
"This has nothing to do with the law. This has to do with trying to manage some of the extremists, in your party — some of the cuckoo clocks who have been talking about impeachment," said Rep. Jim McGovern, to Republicans, during a Rules Committee hearing on the planned legal action.
McGovern's quip came on the heels of Sarah Palin's call for Obama's impeachment earlier this month in an op-ed. But the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was not the first to do so. Over recent years, lesser-known GOP politicians, including some House and Senate members, have occasionally raised the idea of impeachment — or suggested that it should at least be considered.
Published accounts show those include Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Reps. Blake Farenthold of Texas, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, and former Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Allen West of Florida.
For his part, Boehner has rebuffed Palin's call for impeachment. But there has been speculation that his planned lawsuit is an effort to placate such demands in a less politically combustible way — rather than being a deeply felt, legal effort to defend the House of Representatives from executive overreach.
Predictably, McGovern's "cuckoo" language at the hearing Thursday ruffled the feathers of committee Republican sitting across the room — while also causing some confusion. After all, "cuckoo clocks" is not a very precise legal term — certainly not on the level of "locus standi," which Boehner and House Republicans will have to prove they have for a court not to quickly throw out their planned lawsuit over Obama's use of executive actions.
A McGovern aide explained later that the lawmaker, in fact, was referring to "crazy" in using the term "cuckoo clocks."
And that was clear enough after McGovern said it to immediately anger fellow committee member Michael Burgess, R-Texas — who in the past has called for Obama's impeachment.
"This is below this institution," Burgess said of the remark.
Committee Chairman Pete Sessions took charge, turning to McGovern and saying, "What we're trying to do is have a hearing where we keep and talk about the things which are relevant to what [the proposed lawsuit] is about."
"I have not, and would not like to see this committee, on my side, to refer to people who might be on your side as cuckoos. And I do not believe that is appropriate," added Sessions. "Gentlemen, let's keep it on the level."
McGovern responded, "I'll think of a better word if I can think of one," eventually going on to rephrase what he meant as "the irrationality among some on your side with regard to their hatred of this president."
He added, "This president was elected president not just once, but twice. The American people made that decision. And there seems to be a reluctance to accept that."
After the exchange, the committee proceeded to approve along party lines the language for a resolution to be voted on next week authorizing the lawsuit.
Asked after the hearing about the matter, Burgess complained to a reporter, "You heard what he said!" Burgess said he had objected to McGovern's "inappropriate" description "of duly elected members of a body to which he is also elected."