When Republican Sen. Joni Ernst first raised the prospect of impeaching Joe Biden in early 2020 — months before the Democrat had even secured his party’s nomination — the Iowan’s rhetoric was quickly dismissed as ridiculous. Even others in the GOP didn’t bother echoing the nonsense.
More than two years later, however, such talk is vastly more common. Sen. Ted Cruz said earlier this year that if voters give Republicans control over the House, it’s likely GOP lawmakers would eye impeaching the Democratic president, adding more recently that “the pressure to impeach Biden” would be “enormous” in the next Congress.
This past weekend, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace appeared on “Meet the Press” and told NBC News’ Chuck Todd that there’s “a lot of pressure” on GOP members to move forward with presidential impeachment. Asked how she’d vote on such an effort, the South Carolinian didn’t rule out the possibility of voting with her party.
The obvious question, of course, is why Biden should be impeached, and that’s apparently an inconvenient detail that Republicans haven’t quite worked out. When Iowa’s Ernst broached the subject in February 2020, she said: “I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened.” As a Washington Post analysis noted this week, Ernst’s vague phrasing “has proved apt.”
Quite right. Much of the GOP knows it wants to impeach Biden, but the party doesn’t know why.
An especially notorious member of the House Republican conference summarized the perspective with amazing clarity yesterday. The Washington Post reported:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said if Republicans take control of the House, they must impeach members of the Biden administration or their voters will feel “betrayed.” Gaetz made the comments during an appearance Monday on a podcast hosted by former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon.
It’s worth noting for context that in this interview, the guest is currently facing a criminal investigation, while the host is under a criminal indictment. In related news, Republicans occasionally pretend to be the “law and order” party.
But even more interesting was Gaetz’s candid perspective. He noted a recent meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers, some of whom asked about a possible farm bill and efforts to prevent a government shutdown, but the Florida congressman scoffed at such considerations.
The party’s base “will feel betrayed” unless Republicans “engage in impeachment inquiries,” Gaetz said.
He added, “It should be investigations first [and] policy, bill-making to support the lobbyists and the PACs as a far, far diminished priority.”
Gaetz’s frank indifference toward governing was extraordinary. To hear the Florida congressman tell it, Republicans should impeach Biden, not because the president has committed impeachable offenses, but because right-wing activists will be disappointed if the party doesn’t check the box.
As for trying to get actual work done in Congress, the GOP could focus on a legislative priority or two, but those are “far, far diminished” priorities in Gaetz’s vision. The party should instead launch partisan investigations, "engage in impeachment inquiries," and make sure the party’s rabid base feels satisfied.
I wrote a book about Republicans becoming a post-policy party, and it’s awfully nice of Gaetz to offer an archetypal example of the thesis.