Impeachment can never be entirely removed from politics. That’s how the founders wanted it.
But in the case of Kevin McCarthy ordering House committees to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, the speaker is trying to save his own job–and avoid a government shutdown.
Let’s just be real: Even if McCarthy can convince the entire House to vote for impeachment – a questionable outcome – Biden would be acquitted by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The same was true for both Trump impeachments when Republicans ran the Senate.
The move against Biden, which may well be seen as payback for either Nancy Pelosi’s House impeaching Trump, could trigger a backlash against the Republicans. It certainly did when they impeached Bill Clinton, who of course was not convicted by the Democratic Senate. And Trump’s impeachments surely deepened the belief among MAGA supporters that a corrupt establishment was out to get him.
A key fact here: On Sept. 1, McCarthy told Breitbart that if there was an impeachment inquiry, “it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration of one person.” He had also ripped Pelosi for initiating an impeachment without a House vote (so it’s not unprecedented).
What changed? McCarthy doesn’t have the votes, since many of his more moderate lawmakers either don’t think there’s enough evidence to warrant a probe or fear that voters won’t get why they’re not spending most of their time on kitchen-table issues.
In announcing a “formal” inquiry, the speaker said: “House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
But so far, the GOP has mostly unearthed unethical behavior by Hunter Biden, who is under criminal investigation by a special counsel. McCarthy accused the administration of giving the president’s son “special treatment.”
What’s driving all this is a revolt by the most conservative members of McCarthy’s caucus. They want deeper spending cuts than in the deal that averted a government default. But Senate Democrats are unlikely to go along, leaving the prospect of a federal shutdown on Sept. 30.
Of course, they will probably come up with a kick-the-can compromise at the last minute.
And here’s why McCarthy’s job is in potential jeopardy. When he took over the gavel in January after 15 grueling rounds of voting, a crucial concession was that any Republican – for any reason – could file a motion to remove him from the speakership. Rep. Matt Gaetz is a leading proponent of this effort, and McCarthy only has a 5-seat majority.
Now it’s entirely possible that McCarthy will beat back this move to oust him, after more intense voting, and get to keep the post.
At the same time, who would want this thankless job? And how would anyone who replaced Kevin be better able to resolve this impasse?
Now to the question of pursuing Biden. Despite claims by certain Republicans, there is no hard proof that he received any bribes in connection with Hunter’s overseas buckraking in places like Ukraine and China. “House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement.
At the same time, Joe Biden’s insistence that he had nothing to do with his son’s business has been undercut by his repeatedly hopping on conference calls, or attending lunches, as vice president with Hunter’s corporate associates.
All of which turns out to be a giant mess for everyone involved.
It’s a classic Beltway melodrama – endless harsh rhetoric and backstage dealings that may not change much of anything.