House Republican leaders faced a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, they realized that the party’s monthslong crusade to uncover evidence of wrongdoing against President Joe Biden had failed spectacularly. On the other hand, GOP leaders also realized that many of their members — and much of the party’s radicalized base — expected the Republicans to launch an impeachment inquiry anyway.
How would House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team resolve the challenge? By engaging in a rather obvious and unnecessary abuse. NBC News reported:
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday said he is directing three House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden in an effort to seek bank records and other documents from the president and his son Hunter Biden.
As recently as 11 days ago, McCarthy made a rather firm commitment: If the impeachment inquiry process were to move forward, it would require a vote from the full House.
“To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives,” McCarthy told Breitbart News on Sept. 1. “That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
As recently as this morning, The New York Times reported: “The speaker still believes a House vote is necessary to formally start an impeachment inquiry, according to the people familiar with his plans.”
Evidently, the hapless House speaker is going back on his word, moving forward with this stunt without a vote from members.
These developments are ridiculous, but they’re not altogether surprising. Revisiting our earlier coverage, a couple of weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, then-House Minority Leader McCarthy was asked about the prospects of impeachment crusades if House Republicans retook the majority in the chamber. The future House speaker downplayed the possibility.
“I think the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all,” the GOP leader told Punchbowl News in late October. Asked if anyone in the Biden administration had done anything that warranted impeachment proceedings, McCarthy added: “I don’t see it before me right now.”
I wrote a prediction of sorts soon after, suggesting the decision might not be entirely his to make: McCarthy was positioned to become speaker, but if his members were determined to impeach someone, and if a certain former Republican president started barking orders, McCarthy would likely lack the political strength to throw cold water on the intraparty fire.
It was against this backdrop that McCarthy announced two weeks ago that he was prepared to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, setting the stage for today’s announcement.
As the dust settles on the House speaker’s news, here are some questions to keep in mind:
Why did McCarthy promise to hold a vote on an impeachment inquiry, only to reverse course soon after? Part of the problem, of course, is that the House speaker doesn’t appear to have any idea what he’s doing. But just as notably, McCarthy likely came to realize that if he brought such a measure to the floor, it would inevitably fail.
Sure, he could’ve gone through the motions, and told his radical flank, “Well, we gave it our best shot,” but the extremists in his conference almost certainly told McCarthy that would not suffice. And so, here we are.
Shouldn’t Republicans uncover at least some evidence of wrongdoing before opening an impeachment inquiry? That would certainly reflect a healthy, normal and mature political party, capable of responsible oversight and governance. But in 2023, it’s apparently not quite working out that way with the contemporary GOP.
House Republicans have spent months looking for evidence against the president. They’ve failed spectacularly. There’s simply no defense for taking this ugly crusade to the next level.
Is the GOP united on this? Not even a little. By some measures, there are as many as 30 House Republicans who believe the party doesn’t have the necessary evidence against Biden, and among Senate Republicans, there’s even less appetite for this gambit.
Congressional Leadership 101 tells us that good leaders find issues that divide opponents and unite allies. McCarthy has a knack for uniting opponents and dividing allies, and this fixation on an impeachment inquiry is clearly part of the pattern.
Doesn’t Congress have real work to do? Does it really have time for his nonsense? The deadline for a possible government shutdown is quickly approaching. The to-do list on Capitol Hill also includes work on a new farm bill, the need to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, funding for domestic disaster relief, and a new round of aid for our Ukrainian allies.
There’s no need for McCarthy to add a pointless impeachment circus to the mix, but he’s simply too weak to shut the exercise down.