William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


The recent proceedings against President William Jefferson Clinton brought Congress' impeachment power into the national spotlight. In the public debate on when it is appropriate for Congress to exercise this power, it is important to consider that the Framers gave this power to the legislature principally as a tool to maintain a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Examining the debates at the Constitutional Convention, this Note details how the Framers deliberately sought to balance the President's term in office and eligibility for re-election with the Congress' impeachment power in order to prevent one branch from attaining superiority over the other. This Note argues that the Twenty-Second Amendment, which limits the President to two terms in office, has shifted the delicate balance of power established by the Framers in favor of the legislative branch. The Note also suggests that the Framers' desired balance of power between the two branches could be re-established more closely if the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" in Article II of the Constitution were to be construed narrowly.