As Congress prepared to get back to work following its August break, then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy realized that much of his GOP conference wanted to at least try to impeach President Joe Biden. With this in mind, on Sept. 1, the California Republican said the public should expect a vote to open an impeachment inquiry.
In fact, McCarthy said this had to occur through a vote "on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.” He added that this was something “the American people deserve.”
Eleven days later, however, the GOP leader came to an awkward realization: McCarthy didn’t have the votes to open an impeachment inquiry. So, the then-speaker reversed course, abandoned his stated principles, and directed several committee chairs to open an impeachment inquiry without a floor vote.
Three months later, the entire partisan crusade has fallen on hard times. After spending 2023 trying to find incriminating evidence against the Democratic president, House Republicans have literally nothing to show for their work. And yet, as NBC News reported, the vote that McCarthy avoided in September is apparently now slated for this week.
Speaker Mike Johnson said Saturday that he thinks House Republicans have the votes to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, insisting that such a move has “become a necessary step.” In an appearance alongside Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., another member of House GOP leadership, on Fox News, Johnson, R-La., said he plans to bring a vote on impeachment.
Broadly speaking, I think there are two angles to this that are worth keeping in mind as the process moves forward.
The first is that there’s nothing “necessary” about any of this. House Republicans set out to manufacture a Biden scandal, and they failed spectacularly to substantiate their conspiracy theories. There’s been a grand total of one impeachment hearing to date, and there was a bipartisan consensus that the event was an embarrassing fiasco for the GOP.
One senior Republican staffer described the proceedings as “an unmitigated disaster.” Steve Bannon, meanwhile, slammed GOP members for being unprepared, while one of his conservative guests said GOP lawmakers “don’t know what they’re doing at all.”
As recently as last week, at a House Republican leadership team’s press conference, Johnson continued to pretend that the crusade had merit, prompting a reporter to ask some questions that undercut the entire endeavor. The speaker responded by peddling some stale claims and promptly ending the press conference.
Common sense suggests party leaders would’ve learned from these failures and changed direction. Johnson instead wants to move the process forward anyway.
But the second angle of note is whether rank-and-file Republicans are prepared to keep the nonsensical fire burning or finally extinguish it.
That said, when party leaders told their members about the upcoming vote at a conference meeting late last week, “no one stood up during Friday’s closed-door conference to speak against the proposed vote.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer told Fox News there’s growing support for the crusade among his GOP colleagues because, during Congress’ Thanksgiving break, members “heard from people at Walmart“ who expressed interest in Republicans’ anti-Biden conspiracy theories.
Watch this space.