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At the tele-town hall

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Several Idahoans who phoned into Idaho U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s tele-town hall meeting Wednesday night, Feb. 12, expressed concerns that President Barack Obama is abusing executive orders, creating a constitutional crisis that might require impeachment proceedings to be brought against the nation’s chief executive.

They said they fear Obama is directly violating the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers between the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches by arbitrarily circumventing Congress and ignoring or even contradicting enacted laws with his executive orders.

During the hour-long town hall session, Crapo’s constituents also asked about missing Idaho POW Bowe Bergdahl, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” the Keystone XL Pipeline, the U.S. Farm Bill, the minimum wage, environmental protection, broadening the tax base and reforming the tax code.

Crapo said at this point a majority of members in the U.S. House and Senate have not concluded that impeachment of the president would be a proper step.

The U.S. Constitution allows for presidents, vice presidents, federal judges and civil officers to be removed from office via impeachment if they have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including criminal actions or serious misuse or abuse of office.

In American history, the U.S. House of Representatives initiated impeachment proceedings against only two U.S. presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The Senate acquitted Johnson by one vote and dismissed charges against Clinton.

Crapo said he is increasingly hearing the impeachment issue raised “as the president steps outside the law and whether that amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors.” While Congress now is unlikely to impeach Obama, the Idaho Republican said he will not say that will not happen.

Crapo was among 45 Senate Republicans to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court saying it was illegal for Obama to make “recess appointments” of three members to the National Labor Relations Board and Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) when the Senate was still in pro forma session and without its advice and consent.

Crapo said Obama was literally in violation of the Constitution by taking that action. “I don’t think he accidentally did this.”

Three federal appeals courts have ruled those appointments were improper. The Supreme Court heard the landmark case in mid-January. Its decision is expected in late June.

Last November, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pulled the trigger on the so-called “nuclear option,” making a controversial, historic Senate rule change that eliminates filibusters blocking presidential nominees and allows a simple majority vote, rather than 60 votes, to confirm nominees, limiting the power of minority Republicans.

“I think America should be furious at this,” Crapo said, noting one of the disputed nominees was confirmed in the Senate after the rule change was made, referring to Cordray whom he said was illegally appointed. “I think Americans should be outraged at that.”

Crapo emphasized that Americans need to be much more aware of privacy as a major issue, criticizing indiscriminate spying by the government against law-abiding citizens and collecting data on every phone call made by every American.

While much has been reported about the National Security Agency’s spying activities and the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative political and religious groups, Crapo said the new CFPB created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is collecting credit card, banking transaction, mortgage lending, student loan and Social Security information, including some 90 different factors about each American.

Crapo, ranking Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, noted he has called for the General Accounting Office to audit the CFPB and has repeatedly spoken against its broad authority over financial institutions.

The bureau is funded by the Federal Reserve, not congressional appropriations. Crapo and other Republicans said it should be led by a bipartisan board, not a single director.

The collapse of the housing system, perhaps the most significant sector of the U.S. economy, has been a major contributor to the nation’s economic decline the past five or six years, Crapo said, calling for major reforms.

Advocating that they be restructured and ultimately eliminated, he noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, companies which received a $187 billion federal bailout and went into receivership, now manage virtually all mortgages.

Crapo, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, criticized Obama for delaying the Obamacare employer mandate again until 2015 — after November’s mid-term congressional elections. He said the latest delay creates more chaos for Americans, business owners and the U.S. economy.

If the White House continues unilateral delays, it should delay the entire law, especially the individual mandate, Crapo said, agreeing with a caller that it should be repealed in its entirety.

The disastrous rollout of Obamacare, spiraling federal deficits and exploding oppressive regulations underscore that elections have consequences, Crapo said, adding he senses a momentum is building nationwide to reverse the burgeoning growth of government, taxes and spending. November’s congressional elections will be crucial in countering that, he said.

Endorsing the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment, Crapo criticized the House and Senate for extending and increasing the nation’s debt ceiling without any needed fiscal reforms or conditions, calling it very discouraging and frustrating. He and fellow Republican Sen. Jim Risch voted against doing so.

“We recognize if we continue to simply go down the path of adding to debt without solving our fiscal problems, we lose our position globally,” Crapo said, criticizing Democrats for not recognizing the threat the nation’s crushing mountain of debt poses and believing they can spend themselves into prosperity.

“The Congressional Budget Office reaffirms, not withstanding claims by some economists, our country still faces a serious debt crisis. That should be a sober reminder to all Americans of the enormous task ahead of us to get this under control.”

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