I'm Even Smarter Than Bruce Ackerman: Why the President Can Veto His Own Impeachment
Paulsen, Michael Stokes, Constitutional Commentary
I'll admit it. I've always been envious of Yale Law School Professor Bruce Ackerman: He's brilliant, creative and clever. Nowhere are these attributes more spectacularly displayed than in Ackerman's ingenious argument that the House impeachment of President Clinton lapsed at the end of the 105th Congress. The Senate of the 106th Congress, Ackerman has argued, cannot constitutionally try Clinton on articles of impeachment voted by the House in the 105th Congress. Ackerman's argument, in a nutshell, is that impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate must occur in the same Congress, just like enactment of a bill--but only when the impeachment occurs during a lame duck session of Congress.(1)
Why Professor Ackerman limits his argument to lame duck impeachments, as opposed to carry-over impeachments generally, is not clear at first glance. Ackerman concedes that legislative acts by a lame duck Congress are constitutionally valid; the framers of the Twentieth Amendment may have expected that by shortening the period between elections and the start of a new Congress they had eliminated lame duck sessions of Congress, but the text of the Twentieth Amendment plainly does not accomplish this result.(2)
The weight of Ackerman's argument against carry-over impeachment trials is borne not by lameduckism, but by Ackerman's far more inspired premise that impeachment-and-trial is a single act and, therefore, like any other ordinary bill, must pass both the House and the Senate during the same Congress. The fact that the House's action occurred during a lame duck session is entirely incidental to Ackerman's claim. But the lame duck limitation, even if it serves no other purpose, at least formally distinguishes Bill Clinton's case from earlier ones in which the Senate has held impeachment trials based on impeachments returned by the House of Representatives in the previous Congress. (That, of course, is reason enough to justify Ackerman's ingenius resort to the limitation.)
Bruce Ackerman's argument is one of which Bill Clinton himself could justly be proud. Its "one-from-column-A, one-from-column-B" hybrid nature does for logic what Clinton has done for word definitions. It therefore seems a …
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Publication information: Article title: I'm Even Smarter Than Bruce Ackerman: Why the President Can Veto His Own Impeachment. Contributors: Paulsen, Michael Stokes - Author. Journal title: Constitutional Commentary. Volume: 16. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 1999. Page number: 1. © 1998 Constitutional Commentary, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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