Conservative lawmakers behind the resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen have a not-so-secret weapon that they hope will lead to a successful impeachment vote in September: public outrage.
Reps. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and John Fleming, R-La., made a motion on Thursday to call up their impeachment resolution on a privileged basis, essentially forcing the House to vote on it. That motion won't be considered until the House returns in September from conventions and the summer recess.
Some already see the intervening seven weeks as a cooling off period that gets Republican leaders off the hook, since they don't want to hold the vote.
But Huelskamp and Fleming say the time back home might subject lawmakers to several weeks of pressure from constituents who are demanding an impeachment vote to finally hold somebody in Washington — anybody — accountable.
"Can you name one person who's been held accountable in Washington, D.C.?" Huelskamp asked in an interview with the Washington Examiner. He cited Lois Lerner of the IRS, and countless officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs who have been able to keep their jobs in the face of scandals.
"People think it's about time the IRS lives the way everyone else does," he added about the concept of accountability that so often eludes Washington.
"We go back home, we hear what the American people say," said Fleming in a separate interview. "Maybe it doesn't matter to them, maybe the corruption in Washington doesn't matter to people, but I don't think so."
"Leadership will likely do nothing unless they hear from voters," he added. Then, "I think they'd have no choice but to bring it up."
The two lawmakers and many others in the House Freedom Caucus say Koskinen has to go because of the way he handled the congressional inquiry into the IRS targeting scandal. In that scandal, the IRS admitted to applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
But House Freedom Caucus members say Koskinen stonewalled efforts to learn more, and that key records were destroyed under his watch.
The impeachment resolution cites several "high crimes and misdemeanors," and supporters say the charges are high enough to warrant Koskinen's removal from office.
"This guy was brought in to clean up that mess over there," Huelskamp said of Koskinen. "Then he stonewalled."
GOP leaders don't agree, and would rather focus on a more moderate agenda that gives voters a reason to keep Republicans in charge of the House and Senate. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday tried to calm things down by saying the GOP would have a "family" discussion about impeachment once members return.
"When we return from the work period we will talk about it as a family," Ryan said.
But while leaders hope things calm down, supporters of impeachment are hoping voters let lawmakers know they're mad as hell. That would put more pressure on the House to not only hold the vote, but to vote in favor of impeachment.
Fleming says he already gets angry calls from voters who are mad at him for not pushing hard enough to kick Koskinen out.
"They're angry at Republicans," he said. Fleming said his constituents understand that Democrats aren't going after public officials, but said they don't see why Republicans aren't doing more.
"Frankly, I don't get it either," he said. "They key word is betrayal ... they feel betrayed by the GOP here."
Both lawmakers said there's no organized effort to rouse voters over the next seven weeks. But Huelskamp said he thinks voters will "make the case all by themselves."
Supporters of impeachment could return to face a decision from leadership that there won't be a vote. But they hope the pressure will be enough to force either a direct vote on impeachment, or possibly a vote to set aside the motion.
Either way, both Huelskamp and Fleming think the votes are there to get the result they want.
"I think most Republicans would be hard-pressed to keep the IRS commissioner after all that's happened," said Huelskamp.
"I feel like if it is called up, it would definitely pass," said Fleming. "What Republican would want to be a 'no' vote on someone who has clearly violated the law?"
And if somehow the vote is avoided in early September, Fleming added that another ace up their sleeve is to keep up the pressure by bringing it up again and again.
"It's not a one-shot bill," he said.