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Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, center, during a ceremonial swearing-in to the 116th Congress with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Thursday. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

That didn't take long

The I word — impeachment — was always going to be the 800-pound gorilla looming over the 116th Congress.

But mere hours into Democratic control, a freshman House Democrat's excited and profane promise took it out of the closet.

In a speech to liberal activists at a bar near the Capitol on Thursday night, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan promised profanely to impeach President Donald Trump.

"People love you and you win," she told the crowd. "And when your son looks at you and says: 'Momma, look, you won. Bullies don't win.' And I said, 'Baby, they don't.' Because we're going to go in there, and we're going to impeach the m@#^*f^*%!#."

The remark reportedly brought wild cheers from the crowd brought together by MoveOn.org.

It also is now reverberating among conservatives and even some liberals — many now beating their chests about civil comportment.

As The New York Times put it: "By Friday morning, when Ms. Tlaib's remarks had become more of a headache for Democratic leaders. Republicans, who on Thursday offered a hand of 'friendship' to the ascendant Democrats, pounced at an earlier-than-expected opening to paint the majority as a power-hungry bloc intent on destroying Mr. Trump's presidency."

Trump, too, weighed in, tweeting: "How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%? They only want to impeach me because they know they can't win in 2020, too much success!"

Never mind that this is the president who can say anything, and has — both falsely and rudely. He can even act on his rudeness. Just ask the women he bragged of grabbing.

But the I word — impeachment — is trickier.

While it's true that most of us out in real-people land can hardly have a conversation about the president without the word coming up, Democratic party leaders are being very careful with it.

They make no bones about the fact that they believe Trump is a threat to the country and democracy. Most say publicly that they think he has obstructed justice, and some speculate that he collaborated with the Russians in 2016. But they also worry that impeachment has no current path for a win in the GOP-majority Senate. They even fear that talk of impeachment could propel Trump's 2020 campaign. They are opting instead for a-thousand-cuts approach, planning to open myriad congressional investigations into accusations of wrongdoing.

Newly sworn House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, especially, is taking the high road.

"We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason," she said. "So we'll just have to see how it comes."

We can't wait.

 

What's good for the goose

Speaking of Congress, a funny thing happened along the way to appointing TVA board members recently.

The governing board of America's biggest power utility lost another of its directors this week when his term expired, and the 115th Congress failed to confirm one of his presidential appointed successors.

As a result, the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is supposed to have nine directors, starts 2019 with only seven directors.

John Ryder, a Memphis attorney who previously served as general counsel for the Republican National Committee and as chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, was nominated to fill one of the TVA board vacancies last February by President Trump and was interviewed in March by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during his confirmation hearing. But the full U.S. Senate of the 115th Congress that ended Thursday never confirmed Ryder to the post, requiring the White House to either resubmit his nomination or recommend someone else to the TVA board.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a member of the Senate panel that oversees TVA and a supporter of Ryder's nomination, criticized Democrats for the hold up.

"The problem is, even though Democrats can't ultimately defeat these nominations, they're delaying their approval by requiring the Senate to take a maximum amount of time to consider even less significant nominations and those that are not controversial," he said.

That's funny! Because if Democrats did that, they took the play right out of Alexander's playbook.

In 2012, Dr. Marilyn Brown, a Nobel Prize winner and a professor of sustainable systems at Georgia Tech, was nominated by President Barack Obama for another five-year term on the TVA board, but she wound up sitting out almost a year when her reappointment was held up by Tennessee's Sens. Alexander and Bob Corker, who urged Obama to nominate someone else "with credentials better suited for the TVA board."

Corker and Alexander raised questions about Brown's approach to TVA's finances, conservation incentives and views on fossil fuels.

She shared a Nobel Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 for her work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She previously worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and had written extensively on the need for energy efficiency and conservation and the problems of global warming.

Get the picture? She needed "credentials better suited" for TVA.

Maybe the partisanship just looks different when it's on the other side of the aisle.

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