Republicans hoping to seize control of the House in November are already setting their sights on what is, for many of them, a top priority next year: impeaching President Biden.
A number of rank-and-file conservatives have already introduced impeachment articles in the current Congress against the president. They accuse Biden of committing “high crimes” in his approach to a range of issues touching on border enforcement, the coronavirus pandemic and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Those resolutions never had a chance of seeing the light of day, with Democrats holding a narrow control of the lower chamber. But with Republicans widely expected to win the House majority in the midterms, many of those same conservatives want to tap their new potential powers to oust a president they deem unfit. Some would like to make it a first order of business.
“I have consistently said President Biden should be impeached for intentionally opening our border and making Americans less safe,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.). “Congress has a duty to hold the President accountable for this and any other failures of his Constitutional responsibilities, so a new Republican majority must be prepared to aggressively conduct oversight on day one.”
The conservative impeachment drive is reminiscent of that orchestrated by liberals four years ago, as Democrats took control of the House in 2019 under then-President Trump. At the time, a small handful of vocal progressives wanted to impeach Trump, largely over accusations that he’d obstructed a Justice Department probe into Russian ties to his 2016 campaign. The idea was repeatedly rejected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not least out of fear that it would alienate voters in tough battleground districts.
The tide turned when a whistleblower accused Trump of pressuring a foreign power to find dirt on his political opponent – a charge that brought centrist Democrats onto the impeachment train. With moderates on board, Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry in September of 2019, eight months after taking the Speaker’s gavel. Three months later, the House impeached Trump on two counts related to abusing power.
The difference between then and now is that liberals, in early 2019, were fighting a lonely battle with scant support. This year, heading into the midterms, dozens of conservatives have either endorsed Biden’s impeachment formally, or have suggested they’re ready to support it.
At least eight resolutions to impeach Biden have been offered since he took office: Three related to his handling of the migrant surge at the southern border; three targeting his management of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year; one denouncing the eviction moratorium designed to help renters during the pandemic; and still another connected to the overseas business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.
Those proposals will expire with the end of this Congress. But some of the sponsors are already vowing to revisit them quickly next year. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the lead sponsor of four of the impeachment resolutions, is among them.
“She believes Joe Biden should have been impeached as soon as he was sworn in, so of course she wants it to happen as soon as possible,” Nick Dyer, a Greene spokesman, said Monday in an email.
A noisy impeachment push from the GOP’s right flank could create headaches for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the Republican leader in line to be Speaker, and other party brass just as the 2024 presidential cycle heats up.
On the one hand, impeaching Biden could alienate moderate voters and hurt the GOP at the polls, as was the case in 1998 following the impeachment of President Clinton. Already, GOP leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are throwing cold water on the impeachment talk, suggesting it could damage Republicans politically in the midterms.
On the other hand, ignoring the conservatives’ impeachment entreaties might spark a revolt from a Republican base keen to avenge the Democrats’ two impeachments of Trump, who remains the most popular national figure in the GOP. McCarthy knows well the perils of angering the far right: The Freedom Caucus had nudged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) into an early retirement in 2015, deeming him insufficiently conservative, then prevented McCarthy from replacing him.
McCarthy’s office did not respond Monday to a request for comment.
The challenge facing Republican leaders in a GOP-controlled House will be to demonstrate an aggressive posture toward the administration, to appease conservatives, without alienating moderate voters in the process.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) appears to be walking that line. Last summer, she called Biden “unfit to serve as president,” but stopped short of endorsing his impeachment.
Stefanik’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Another strategy GOP leaders may adopt is to impeach a high-ranking member of the administration, but not the president himself. Several resolutions have been introduced to do just that, separately targeting Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
McCarthy, during a visit to the southern border earlier in the year, had floated the idea of impeaching Mayorkas if he is found to be “derelict” in his job of securing the border. And the concept has plenty of support among conservatives.
“Mayorkas and Garland have purposefully made our country less safe, politicized their departments, and violated the rule of law. In some instances, they have instructed their subordinates to disobey our laws. That is unacceptable,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who has endorsed a number of impeachment resolutions this year, said in an email.
“Next January I expect the House to pursue my impeachment articles against Mayorkas as well as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s impeachment articles that I co-sponsored against Attorney General Merrick Garland,” Biggs added.
Still, conservatives like Biggs, the former head of the Freedom Caucus, also want to go straight to the top by impeaching Biden. And it remains unclear if anything less than that will appease the GOP’s restive right flank – one that’s expected to grow next year with the arrival of a number of pro-Trump conservatives vowing to take on anyone they consider to be part of Washington’s political establishment.
Some Republicans said the decision whether to endorse impeachment next year will simply hinge on events. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), for instance, has endorsed two impeachment resolutions this cycle related to the Afghanistan withdrawal, but “has made no decisions yet on supporting impeachment articles next year with Republicans in the majority,” according to spokesman Austin Livingston.
“He will wait to see what those efforts look like, specifically how they align with Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution,” Livingston said, referring to the section outlining Congress’s impeachment powers.
But others are eager to use a GOP majority to hold Biden’s feet to the fire. And that energy doesn’t appear to be fleeting, particularly when it comes to the border crisis, which could very well remain a hot topic six months from now.
Rep. Mary Miller (R), a strong Trump supporter who recently won an Illinois primary over the more moderate Rep. Rodney Davis (R), said Biden should be removed “for purposely ignoring our immigration laws.”
“Biden and Harris have failed their most basic duty,” Miller said, “which is ensuring the safety of the American people through the security of our borders.”
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This story was originally published August 30, 2022 6:00 AM.