WASHINGTON -- Just days after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called rumors of a GOP plan to impeach President Barack Obama "a scam started by Democrats at the White House," tea party favorite Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) again stoked speculation about a possible impeachment push led by the far-right element of Boehner's caucus.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," King said that if Obama's expected executive actions to address the border crisis amount to a "constitutional crisis," then Congress will need to "have a serious look at the rest of this Constitution, and that includes that 'I' word we don't want to say."
That word is impeachment. And while there have been no formal directives from House leaders instructing the rank-and-file not to mention the word, it's safe to say Boehner would prefer it not be dragged up on Sunday talk shows by a firebrand Iowa conservative.
The prospect of impeaching Obama has long been spoken of in hushed tones by the most conservative members of the House, but it was given new life in recent weeks when House Republicans moved forward with a proposed lawsuit against the president over the implementation of certain Obamacare provisions.
Since then, Boehner has taken pains to emphasize that the lawsuit and any impeachment rumors have nothing to do with one another. But for the most committed partisans on both the left and the right, the two have become woven into one big symbol of how far the House GOP majority is willing to go in its effort to undermine Obama's agenda.
King did little to play down the drama, telling host Brit Hume, "We've never seen anything in this country like a president that says, 'I'll make up immigration law as I choose, and drive this regardless the resistance of the Congress.'" King was referring to the proposed executive actions on immigration, which have yet to be laid out in detail but are expected to come later this month.
"None of us want to do the thing that's left for us as an alternative," he said, "but if the president has decided that he simply is not going to enforce any immigration law ... Congress has to sit down and have a serious look at the rest of this Constitution, and that includes that 'I' word we don't want to say."
Meanwhile, as King not-so-delicately tiptoed around the "I" word on Fox, over on ABC's "This Week," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wasn't as subtle. For Democrats, the specter of impeachment has been an unexpected political gift, fueling a massive fundraising effort that has helped line the war chests of House Democrats during a difficult mid-term election cycle.
"It would be foolish to discount the possibility that this Republican Congress, at some point in time, would consider impeachment," Pfeiffer said on the show, repeating a claim he made recently, which likely helped fuel the present fever pitch of discourse around the subject.
Asked about the assurances from Boehner and other Republican leaders that there would be no impeachment, Pfeiffer looked almost happy as he noted that "five days before the  government shutdown, the Speaker said there was no way we'd shut the government down over health care. And then we did.
"In the House of Representatives, John Boehner may have the gavel, but [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz has the power," Pfeiffer added, referring to the tea party Republican senator credited with helping rally far-right opposition among House members to a Boehner-backed immigration bill this past week. King met with Cruz on Wednesday night, just hours before the bill collapsed.