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Old 10-06-2006, 12:53 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Can cabinet secretaries be impeached?

Can Congress impeach and remove cabinet secretaries from office in the same manner and federal judges or the (Vice-)President?
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:05 PM
Freddy the Pig Freddy the Pig is online now
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Yes, and one once was: William Belknap, Secretary of War under US Grant. He resigned his office after being impeached, but the Senate plowed ahead with his trial anyway, even though the only legal effect would have been a potential disqualification of Belknap from holding future office. He was acquitted.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:07 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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I don't think there is any constitutional provision for it. Congress could impeach and then remove the president and vice and then the speaker of the House becomes president. Although the cabinet members have to be confirmed by Congress, only the president can emove them. A law was once passed (and repassed over the president's veto) that forbade the president from removing a cabinet member without the consent of Congress. Probably unconsitutional, and Andrew Johnson fired a cabinet member anyway and the House impeached him for it. The Senate failed by one vote to convict.

One of my HS history teacher speculated that had they succeeded, the US might have evolved to a parliamentary system. After all, Congress doesn't have to give a reason for impeachment; "high crimes", whatever they are, will suffice. So the House could impeach and the Senate convict for any reason including policy differences. Of course, it really could not be a parliamentary system since conviction requires 2/3 majority.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:13 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Cabinet officers count as "civil officers of the United States" who according to the text of the constitution may be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

In addition to Belknap, I seem to recall that there was talk of impeaching Andrew Young when he was Ambassador to the UN, but nothing came of it.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:30 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon
I don't think there is any constitutional provision for it. Congress could impeach and then remove the president and vice and then the speaker of the House becomes president. Although the cabinet members have to be confirmed by Congress, only the president can emove them. A law was once passed (and repassed over the president's veto) that forbade the president from removing a cabinet member without the consent of Congress. Probably unconsitutional, and Andrew Johnson fired a cabinet member anyway and the House impeached him for it. The Senate failed by one vote to convict.
The Prez's peeps are confirmed by the Senate, not by the Congress as a whole. (The only exception is an appointment to fill a vacant Vice Presidency, to which the entire Congress must consent.)
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:59 PM
Billdo Billdo is offline
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To fill out bibliophage's explanation, Article I, which describes the Congress, provides in section 2 that "The House of Representatives . . . shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Article I provides in Section 3 that:
Quote:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Article II covers the Executive power of the United States. It provides in Section 4 that:

Quote:
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.
Putting it all together, any civil officer of the United States, from cabinet secretaries to third assistant agriculture inspectors may be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate. If impeached and convicted, the officer may be removed from office, and may further be disqualified from holding any federal office of honor, trust or profit, but that's it. The officer may also be indicted, tried and punished according to the ordinary criminal law.

Under Article II, Sec. 4, the impeachment and conviction must be for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," but whether a particular misdeed fits into the impeachable category has been held by the Supreme Court to be a nonjusticiable political question. See Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993) (affirming the removal of a federal judge). What this means is that "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" effectively means whatever Congress finds it to mean by impeaching and convicting someone.
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