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Why Republicans’ intensifying focus on impeaching Biden matters

Ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, GOP leaders insisted they wouldn't impeach the Democratic president. This year, the GOP's message is ... different.


It’s far from clear what kind of governing priorities Republicans intend to pursue if voters give them a congressional majority, but there’s no mistaking one of the GOP’s principal political priorities. The Hill reported yesterday:

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.... 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.

The article quoted a variety of GOP lawmakers and their spokespersons, including Rep. Bob Good of Virginia insisting that the Democratic president “should be impeached for intentionally opening our border,” despite the fact that this never happened in reality.

As regular readers may recall, this isn’t altogether new. One of the first Republican lawmakers to broach the subject of impeaching Biden was Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who raised the prospect two years ago — long before the Delaware Democrat had even secured his party’s nomination. The GOP senator said at the time that the impeachment door “has been opened” and pointed to conspiracy theories about Burisma and Ukraine.

Such chatter was far too ridiculous to be sustained, and even Ernst stopped talking about the idea. But after Biden’s inauguration, several House Republicans filed articles of impeachment against the Democratic president, and earlier this year, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas added that he believes a Republican-led House would likely consider impeaching Biden on “multiple grounds.”

Cruz added a few weeks ago that, in the wake of the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search, “the pressure to impeach Biden is going to be enormous.” Rep. Jim Jordan — a Republican positioned to chair the House Judiciary Committee — has said he wants to see his party at least begin a conversation about impeaching the president.

“I think that’s definitely a discussion we have to have,” the Ohioan said in the spring.

For now, let’s put aside the obvious fact that the incumbent president hasn’t committed any high crimes; the border isn’t open; Biden wasn’t involved in the justified Mar-a-Lago search; and this partisan fixation is plainly ridiculous. Let’s also put aside the fact that if voters reward Republicans with a House majority, and the GOP uses its power to impeach the president, it wouldn’t have much of a practical impact since the Senate wouldn’t convict him anyway.

Let’s instead consider how the Republican leadership intends to deal with this nonsense.

In the months leading up to the 2014 midterm elections, more than a few Republicans talked up the idea of impeaching then-President Barack Obama for reasons they struggled to articulate. As we’ve discussed, the chatter grew loud enough that Democrats started fundraising on the issue — which proved to be a good idea when the Democratic base had a strong response.

It reached the point that GOP leaders had to start downplaying the talk — then-House Speaker John Boehner told reporters the idea was “a scam started by Democrats,” which was the opposite of the truth — not because they were sympathetic to Obama, but because they feared the effects of a Democratic backlash.

Eight years later, will Republicans stick to the same plan? In April, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared on Fox News and seemed to reject the idea of impeaching Biden. Some in his party were not pleased, but the talk soon faded.

Now the talk is back — and GOP leaders are no longer eager to talk about it.

It’s easy to believe McCarthy would want to focus his energies elsewhere in the next Congress, but it’s also clear that the Californian is more likely to be led than to actually lead.

The result is an emerging campaign issue in the 2022 midterms: A vote for congressional Republicans will likely prove to be a vote for a misguided impeachment crusade.