Why Impeaching Biden is a Political Disaster for the GOP
The Speaker once again proves that he is terrible at his job
Most Americans have understandably tuned out from the news recently — enjoying the waning days of summer or dealing with the start of school, so they may have missed when the House Republicans began an impeachment inquiry into President Biden over the business dealings of his son, Hunter.
Yep. You read that correctly.
Last Sunday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy went on Fox News to preview the launch of an inquiry. Here’s what he told Maria Bartiromo:
If you look at all the information we have been able to gather so far, it is a natural step forward that you would have to go to an impeachment inquiry.
Neither McCarthy nor the other MAGA Republicans chomping at the bit on impeachment can point to a single piece of evidence that President Biden had any involvement in Hunter Biden’s business dealings. This lack of evidence comes after a five-year Justice Department investigation by a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney and 18 months of investigation by the Republican House.
For some reason, this story has been getting limited attention from the political media. An impeachment inquiry into Biden is significant both in terms of the current politics and historical precedent. Biden would be the Xth President in U.S. history to face an impeachment inquiry, but the first to suffer through the process absent a modicum of evidence of wrongdoing.
This potential impeachment inquiry is a direct result of Kevin McCarthy’s weakness, cowardice, and strategic idiocy. In the long history of dumb things done by Republicans, this might be the dumbest.
1. The Dumbest of Dumb Reasons
But this impeachment inquiry has nothing to do with evidence or accountability. McCarthy wants to embark on a politically perilous and damaging impeachment because he needs to bribe the Right Wing members of his caucus into keeping the government open when funding expires at the end of the month. As an example, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene gave a speech last week and laid out the following demands in exchange for voting to keep the government open:
-Impeachment inquiry vote on Joe Biden
- Defund Biden’s weaponization of government
- Eliminate all COVID vaccine mandates
- No funding for the war in Ukraine
Other members of the Freedom Caucus have refused to support the spending levels included in the debt ceiling deal if it passes this spring as well as supporting a short-term extension to keep the government funded at current levels while negotiations between the House, Senate, and White House proceed. The Republican House is barrelling towards an unnecessary, politically damaging shutdown. McCarthy has little leverage, so he concocted the most galaxy brain idea imaginable. He is arguing to the “Impeach Biden” crowd that a government shutdown would prevent such an inquiry from proceeding. As the Speaker explained:
If we shut down, all the government shuts it down — investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public.
If the government shuts down, so do national parks and infrastructure projects; most government services are restricted if not suspended, and most federal workers are furloughed without pay while Congress bickers.
Allow me to explain why, on every level, this is a dumb idea.
2. Everyone Sees Right Through it
The main problem with McCarthy’s “Keep the government open to impeach Biden” plan is that it’s false advertising.
When the government shuts down because Congress fails to pass a funding bill, it doesn’t completely cease running. Essential services remain in operation. The military stays on duty, Social Security checks continue to go out, and FEMA is prepared to respond to disasters. The workers who make those things happen are deemed “essential” and kept on the job. In the Executive Branch, the Office of Management and Budget is responsible for determining which services and personnel are “essential” and can, therefore, keep working despite no funding.
Congress, of course, can’t shut down because they need to be on the job to work on a deal to reopen the government. And guess who in the House of Representatives decides which duties are “essential?”
Yep, Kevin McCarthy.
The Right Wing already figured this out. Representative Ken Buck said as much to the New York Times last week:
It’s not as if the investigators won’t be considered necessary or essential personnel. [McCarthy] is the one who decides how much of the House we shut down.”
McCarthy opened the door to impeachment as a way to avoid a shutdown, but he cannot meet all of the demands of the Freedom Caucus. He is now under pressure to deem the impeachment inquiry staff and others investigating Biden as essential, which will eliminate any of his existing leverage.
3. The Worst of Both Worlds
To the extent that Kevin McCarthy thought this through, his calculations show that a shutdown is more politically damaging than launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. I am confident he is incorrect. But the way he has implemented this strategy increased the likelihood that the government will shut down and start impeachment proceedings. As noted above, the inquiry could be launched in September and then continue unfettered throughout a shutdown. Major parts of government being shut down by a Trumped-up investigation of President Biden would be terrible optics for the GOP. Even if McCarthy resists pressure to keep the investigation going throughout the shutdown, the Freedom Caucus will demand that it continue afterward.
On Fox and in subsequent interviews, McCarthy clarified that he thinks an impeachment inquiry is warranted. By conceding the legitimacy of this thoroughly illegitimate stunt, McCarthy makes it very hard to walk it back.
4. Impeachment Puts the Majority at Risk
McCarthy’s entire strategy for keeping his job is centered on appeasing the Right Wing members of the Freedom Caucus. They could push him out by calling for a motion to vacate. On paper, the more mainstream members of the caucus could easily threaten McCarthy’s job, but they don’t because they fear that the next Speaker could be even more MAGA than the MAGA-lite McCarthy.
However, pursuing impeachment could put the razor-thin GOP majority in even more danger. There are 19 Republican members who represent districts Biden won in 2020. Their path to victory depends on winning over some number of people who plan to vote for Biden. McCarthy has put them in a near-impossible situation — they can either support impeaching Biden and seem like the very MAGA Republicans that the voters plan to reject or oppose impeachment and inflame the GOP base whose votes they also need. According to a Wall Street Journal poll, 52% of voters oppose impeaching Biden, while only 41% support it. That’s bad news for those Republicans in Biden districts.
I can’t shake the sense McCarthy didn’t think this one through.
4. McCarthy’s Plan Will Likely Help Biden
In 2019, Democrats had a moral and constitutional responsibility to impeach Trump for trying to blackmail Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Impeachment was the right thing to do — politics be damned. Shirking their duty would have been deeply damaging and demobilizing. Unfortunately, impeachment was good for Trump. During the impeachment process, Trump’s poll numbers went up. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, his approval rating among Republicans shot to 90% after being in the 80s for much of the last year. Among Independents, “Trump’s approval rating increased to 47% in Jan. 2020 and 51% in Feb. 2020 — after previously being in the 30s.”
Biden could see a similar rise in the polls if the Republicans undertake impeachment. I recently analyzed the polling to see why the 2024 race is tied right now. Here’s what I found:
The primary reason for the statistical tie in the race is that Trump is holding onto more of his 2020 vote than Biden. In the NYT poll, 91% of Trump’s 2020 voters are supporting him again while only 87% percent of Biden’s voters plan to vote for him in 2024. Among Biden’s 2020 voters, 2% plan to vote for Trump, 4% claim they won’t if the race is between Biden and Trump, and 5% intend to vote for a candidate other than Biden or Trump.
An unpopular MAGA Republican House majority pursuing a partisan, unfounded impeachment is a textbook example of something that would cause Dems to come home to Biden.
I know Kevin McCarthy didn’t think through this cockamamie impeachment scam, because he doesn’t think anything through. The man has the foresight of a mole. McCarthy has had a lot of dumb and dangerous ideas in his time, but this might take the cake.