31

This pertains to the United States.

From my understanding (Wikipedia), the House of Representatives can impeach the president with a simple majority. The Senate can then convict the president with a supermajority (2/3 of the Senate). Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution says: "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." High crimes and misdemeanors in its original meaning is interpreted as "for whatever reason whatsoever" 1.

Given these facts, it follows that a majority in the House, and a supermajority in the Senate can remove a President and a Vice President "for whatever reason whatsoever".

The presidential line of succession has the Speaker of the House in line behind the Vice president. Normally, if just the President was impeached, the Vice President would take his place, and then nominate a new vice president. However, if the House and Senate impeach and convict both the President and Vice President "simultaneously" (without allowing for the Vice President to ever assume the presidency), then I imagine the Speaker of the House would still be the next in line to assume the presidency (please correct me if I'm wrong).

So--If a single party has a majority in the House, and a supermajority in the Senate, can they replace the president and vice president with the Speaker of the House (from their own party)?

Can't a party that controls the House, and has a supermajority in the Senate always force the president to be from their own party?

1 From the Wikipedia article on High Crimes and Misdemeanors:

As can be found in historical references of the period, the phrase in its original meaning is interpreted as "for whatever reason whatsoever". This phrase covers all or any crime that abuses office. Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive "rendered himself obnoxious," and the Constitution should provide for the "regular punishment of the Executive when his conduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused." James Madison said, "...impeachment... was indispensable" to defend the community against "the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate." With a single executive, Madison argued, unlike a legislature whose collective nature provided security, "loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the Republic."

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    The appointment of a new vice-president needs to be confirmed, so simultaneous action is not required. Interpretation of the constitution is finally the responsibility of the supreme court, who might or might not accept the 18th century's understanding of the term. – user9389 Aug 29 '17 at 18:10
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    Unless the President and Vice President were really, really unpopular (or there were real crimes involved), so that such a removal had overwhelming public support, most members of Congress would realize that they would be accountable to an angry constituency at the next election. – jamesqf Aug 29 '17 at 18:33
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    Because No one wants another civil war – SoylentGray Aug 29 '17 at 21:05
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    It is also worth noting that if one party controls 66% of the senate their base should be large enough to win the Presidency in the first place, so the chance of this actually happening are almost nonexistent. – Braydon Aug 29 '17 at 21:25
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    You can't really gerrymander to win the Senate. Even if you could getting that much more control through gerrymandering alone is not generally possible. – Braydon Aug 30 '17 at 3:41
34

Technically speaking? You're right, nothing

Practically speaking though there are 2 problems with it.

First, you're assuming that the House majority and Senate super majority are completely on the same page and willing to make the speaker the new president. No one can dissent or lose your guaranteed win. That is not impossible, but it's very hard to do.

Second, and more importantly, it's political suicide (if not actual suicide). I can't think of any situation in which one party does this and the rest of the country doesn't immediately go nuts (except, of course, if there was actually an impeachable offence). There would be immediate protests, claims of coups, and demands for resignations. Being president doesn't mean much if no one sees you as the president.

Likely the power grab would end in large swaths of the representatives being forced out of office in one way or another (resignations, regular elections, public pressure, etc), and if they get really unlucky someone might bring up treason charges (which can carry the death penalty, hence actual suicide).

Obviously that is somewhat speculative since this has never happened and we have nothing to compare it against. But if you're going to take such actions, these are the thoughts that would go through your head.

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    It should also be noted that it is extremely unlikely for a supermajority Senate and a majority Congress to be from one party and the President from the other. – JonathanReez Aug 29 '17 at 19:49
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    @JonathanReez - It could happen after a "wave" midterm which was already favorable to that party (based on which Senate seats were being defended by each party). It's definitely unlikely, but it's not unreasonably so. – Bobson Aug 29 '17 at 20:33
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    The last time a single party held a supermajority was during FDR's rule and it was his own party. The odds of any party gaining 67 votes in the modern times are extremely slim. – JonathanReez Aug 29 '17 at 21:07
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    Do you have a reference for the mandatory death sentence? U.S. Code § 2381 should make it an option, but not mandatory. – Matthew FitzGerald-Chamberlain Aug 29 '17 at 22:20
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    @KRyan: But then almost any crime against the United States could qualify. The founders used the word "only" for a reason: they did not want people calling random things treason as an excuse to behead the politically disfavored, as had often happened in England. You can't just twist the language until it fits. In order for it to be treason, you need to implicate a specific enemy, and specific acts of aid or comfort to that enemy. "Undermining democracy," no matter how thoroughly, is not treason. – Kevin Aug 30 '17 at 6:02

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