HOUSE REPUBLICAN RAISES SPECTER OF IMPEACHMENT…. Late last week, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who knows a little something about the practice, raised the prospect of presidential impeachment. The Republican, perhaps best known for leading the crusade against President Clinton, said he was so incensed over the Obama administration’s policy on the Defense of Marriage Act, impeachment should be on the table.

Soon after, Gingrich’s office quickly walked this back, saying “impeachment is clearly not an appropriate action” under these circumstances. How gracious of him.

As it turns out, though, some Republicans aren’t letting go of the idea so easily.

[I]n the right’s furor over the administration’s announcement that it will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is calling for Obama to be impeached.

After the Arizona Republican advocated defunding the Department of Justice if it does not defend Section 3 of DOMA — “I would support that in a moment,” remarked Franks — he went on to say that he would “absolutely” favor impeaching President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder if such a move “could gain collective support.”

Specifically, Franks was asked, “I know Newt Gingrich has came out and said if they don’t reverse course here, we ought to be talking about possibly impeaching either Attorney General Holder or even President Obama to try to get them to reverse course. Do you think that is something you would support?”

The Republican congressman replied, “If it could gain the collective support, absolutely.”

Franks, by the way, was recently named the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s panel on the U.S. Constitution. Just thought I’d mention that.

In case anyone’s concerned about the substance here, let’s also emphasize that the Obama administration will still enforce the law. All the Justice Department said is that officials now consider DOMA unconstitutional and will no longer defend it in court. Previous administrations, from both parties, have done the same thing. It’s hardly outrageous, and to consider it an impeachable offense is stark raving mad.

I’d also note for context that Trent Franks has an odd appreciation for the rule of law. He was entirely comfortable, for example, with the Bush administration ignoring federal laws when it suited the White House’s purposes. Franks was also on board with Bush issuing signing statements, announcing his intention to pick and choose which parts of the law he’d honor.

But Obama’s reluctance to defend a bad law against lawsuits is evidence of “high crimes”?

In a more sensible political environment, this would make Franks a laughingstock, and probably cost him his chairmanship of House Judiciary Committee’s panel on the Constitution. In our political environment, it’s just considered Thursday.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.