In the USA what is the balance to impeachment?

As I understand it, the President and Supreme Court Justices can be impeached. But what happens to those who impeach after the impeachment fails? Are they disbarred? Is there no penalty at all?

Please let’s keep this GQ.

A large number of people other than them can be impeached. It’s just that, when anyone who wasn’t known to begin with is in danger of impeachment, very few people care.

No penalty at the Presidential level anyway, not even if the people responsible are using the power abusively, because it’s partially a political question which is rightfully decided by the voters: If the House keeps drawing up articles of impeachment and the Senate keeps slapping them down, it’s up to the people to decide whether that’s a good use of their Representatives’ time and, if not, to elect new Representatives.

Disbarred from what?

Impeachment is a legislative process carried out by elected legislators. The check is that if you make an ass of yourself you risk not being re-elected.

They can be voted out of office.

If the voters are displeased with the attempt to impeach, they can vote the current Congress out of office at the next regularly-scheduled election. If the voters are not upset, nothing happens.

And, given modern trends, voters can also mount a hashtag campaign on Twitter demanding that the members of Congress who led the impeachment drive resign.

The penalty is a political/electoral one.

The House of Representatives (term length: 2 years) has to vote for an impeachment trial to take place.

The Senate (term length: 6 years) votes to convict/not convict.

Because the House answers to its voters every couple years, the ideal would be that House members frivolously voting for impeachment proceedings would be seen as less useful to their constituents. (I don’t know that this actually happens - did any House members lose their seats after failed impeachment attempts where the electoral outcome could be linked to the attempt?)
The Senate is supposed to be the more sober, collegial, and serious body of the two. Whether a Senator would suffer electorally after a failed impeachment attempt would vary depending on how close they are to their re-election (1/3rd of the Senate is elected every two years, so turnover is not as rapid in as in the House.) I would doubt that impeachment attempts loom large in the re-election of a Senator, but since I’m too lazy to look it up, I’m ready to be proved wrong.

Well, not too too lazy to look it up, just delayed. Wikipedia has a section on the Representatives who served as ‘managers’ (sorta kinda like prosecutors) in the Clinton impeachment trial: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_and_acquittal_of_Bill_Clinton#Ensuing_events_for_13_House_managers

It sounds like only James E. Rogan’s re-election loss is credibly linked to the failed impeachment trial of Clinton.

There is no penalty. In the same way, there is no penalty for a grand juror who votes to indict someone who is ultimately acquitted at trial.

They lose a time-out.

(NFL football joke)

I don’t think it would be too much to say that the lead up to impeachment of Clinton led to the resignations of Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston. Gingrich was Speaker and Livingston was Speaker-designate at the time of their resignation. Gingrich resigned due to his actions leading to the republican party taking it in the neck - he told people to expect gains of 25+ seats and the actuality was a lost of 5 - in the 1998 election and Livingston resigned following the revelations of his hypocrisy over extramarital affairs.

Impeachment is the process by which an official is accused of wrongdoing. It seems many people think that impeachment is the same thing as a criminal trial, and that after the trial the person who has been found guilty has been impeached. That is, people seem to think that if you have been impeached, you have been found guilty.

AFAIK there is no official penalty to the ones doing the impeaching, though there may be consequences as people have stated above.

Just to expand on this pertinent post.

You can say that the House of Representatives acts as a grand jury, the one that produces the charges upon which the accused will be tried, i.e. the articles of impeachment. The Senate acts as the petit jury, deciding whether the facts prove the accused guilty of those charges. The Vice President, in the constitutional role of President of the Senate, acts in the place of the judge

In that way, the impeachment system is exactly parallel to the standard legal system. The presumption of the standard legal system in the U.S. and everywhere outside a complete dictatorship is that the participants in the legal system are not at risk of reprisal for taking part in it - unless they demonstrably have committed illegal acts in the process.

Yes, members of Congress can be voted out of office for this reason or any other. But so can the District Attorney or Judge in many localities.

Impeachment is the legal system as applied to “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States.”

BTW, an impeached officer can then be subject to normal criminal and civil justice just like anyone else.

Senator Ross from Kansas cast the decisive vote against convicting President Andrew Johnson. A Republican, he voted against his party, and Johnson was acquitted by one vote shy of the two-thirds requirement for conviction.

Ross was vilified for his vote and lost his bid for re-election two years later, which is normally attributed to his vote to acquit.

Note that at the time, U.S. Senators were elected by their state legislatures. Direct election of Senators didn’t happen until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.

Read that as “a convicted” officer, please.

It’s also true for impeached officers and, for that matter, non-impeached officers, but the point is that impeachment and conviction is a purely political outcome that is separate from the normal justice system.

Yes and no. Altho it’s true in the US Constitution, Impeachment is a two step process, generally we only say someone has been impeached when they are removed from office.

Our representatives are supposed to be balancing each other, they are a body of people, not an individual. After that we the electorate are supposed to be balancing our representatives at the voting booth. A primary concept of our democratic system is that the power of individuals such as the president or a judge is balanced by the power of the electorate as a represented body.

Well, if you google “Clinton Impeached” you’ll get oodles of images of newspapers with big headlines “Clinton Impeached”, so they certainly didn’t wait for the confirmation/trial/whatever you call what the senate does!

Not really. Impeachment is a one-step process. Bill Clinton was not half-impeached or almost impeached; he was impeached. Impeachment of a president by the House then requires a trial to be conducted by the Senate, which is not part of the impeachment (and, of course, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate). If the Senate convicts, then the person is removed from office and potentially subject to criminal procedure. But the impeachment is complete as soon as it is confirmed by a House vote, just as an indictment of a criminal offense is complete as soon as the Grand Jury votes on it, even though the trial has not yet been held.

I don’t think it’s correct to say that “generally we only say someone has been impeached when they are removed from office.” It’s commonly said that two presidents in US history have been impeached (Clinton and Andrew Johnson), but no president has ever been convicted by the Senate and thus removed from office after being impeached.

Sells more papers.

I misread the OP originally. I had thought he was asking what would happen to the target of the impeachment should impeachment fail. It does seem he’s asking what penalty accrues to House members if impeachment fails. In that case, the GQ answer is that that is up to their electorates. There is no other penalty.

Incidentally, to whom does the impeachment process apply, other than the President, Vice President, and federal judges?