House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) drew right-wing ire after he stated that House Republicans, if they win the House majority in this year’s midterm elections, will not impeach President Joe Biden for “political purposes.”
He is not alone in not wanting to embrace impeachment. With the midterm election season starting, McCarthy has kept focus on issues like the Biden administration’s struggles with inflation and a migration surge at the border.
Republican strategist Doug Heye said that McCarthy “knows that if we’re talking about impeaching the president, we’re not talking about inflation and anything that distracts from what is causing 60 percent of the American public to say that we’re on the wrong track.”
But many of the more than a dozen House Republicans who have signed on to Biden impeachment resolutions are not letting up on their calls to impeach the president.
“President Biden is willfully and intentionally endangering the safety and security of the American people by facilitating the invasion at our Southern Border,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who has cosponsored impeachment resolutions led by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
“A Republican majority should do everything in its power to hold the president accountable for effectively surrendering operational control of the U.S. border to the Mexican crime cartels. How can we not impeach this president for his purposeful violation of his Article 4, Section 4 constitutional responsibility to protect the states from invasion?” Good said.
In his comments to Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, McCarthy did not completely shut down the idea of impeachment, and vowed to hold the Biden administration accountable. Republicans have promised a wave of investigative and oversight actions if they take back the House majority.
“We believe in the rule of law,” McCarthy said. “We’re not going to pick and choose just because somebody has power. We’re going to uphold the law. At any time, if someone breaks the law and the ramification becomes impeachment, we would move towards that. But we’re not going to use it for political purposes.”
His comment, though, set off a wave of criticism from right-wing commentators. Some, like Jesse Kelly, argued that Democrats’ moves to impeach former President Donald Trump and potentially future Republican president warrants an equal response.
“Who are you? You want to be Speaker of the House of Representatives and you’re afraid to take on Biden and the regime?” far-right personality Mike Cernovich said on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.
Seventeen House Republicans have introduced or co-sponsored resolutions to impeach Biden, four of which are led by Greene. Several others have publicly called for impeachment, with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) doing so at a Trump rally over the weekend.
Reasons for impeachment vary.
A recurring reason in several resolutions is Biden’s handling of the messy withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, during which 13 service members were killed in a bomb attack, followed by the Taliban swiftly taking control of the country. Resolutions from Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) cite Biden’s policies on immigration and handling of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Gibbs and Greene also point to Biden extending a moratorium on evictions, circumventing guidance from the Supreme Court.
A resolution from Greene that she introduced on Biden’s first day in office names the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and runs through his business dealings that occurred while Biden was vice president. It brings up Biden asking Ukraine to fire a prosecutor, who was seen as widely corrupt, investigating a company where Hunter Biden sat on the board. Former President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe the same issue during a phone call that led to his first impeachment.
Pro-impeachment House Republicans argue that they do not want to impeach Biden for purely political reasons.
“McCarthy is absolutely correct that impeachment should not be used as an electoral weapon. We saw Democrats push impeachment to politically injure President Trump leading up to the 2020 election, using hearsay and innuendo,” Gibbs said in a statement. “When truly egregious actions by a president violate the oath of office, it is incumbent upon Congress to deliberate and, if necessary, file articles of impeachment.”
“I never want to see impeachment used as a political tool ever again, as was the case with President Trump,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who cosponsored a Greene impeachment resolution. “President Biden has abdicated his duty to faithfully execute the Office of the President by openly defying federal immigration laws at our southern border.”
McCarthy, who is aiming to become Speaker in a GOP majority, has first hand experience with backlash that comes from political aims being seen as the main motivating factor behind investigative actions.
In 2015, when McCarthy was House majority leader, critics jumped on him for linking the House select committee investigating the Benghazi attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential poll numbers.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” McCarthy said at the time. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”
Shortly after that gaffe, McCarthy withdrew from the race to replace Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Impeachment calls are being used by Democrats to paint the GOP as unserious. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, tweeted Wednesday that Republicans are calling for impeachment “because the cult leader wants to see them do it,” an apparent reference to Trump.
“Kevin is smart to one, tamp this kind of talk down, and to also demonstrate that they’ll investigate and follow the facts where they are, where they go, and not to presuppose what those facts are,” said Heye, the Republican strategist.
Though many impeachment advocates say it is acting on principle, some point to a political rationale when deciding whether to take that step.
On Bartiromo’s Fox Business show last week, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) argued that Biden had committed impeachable offenses, prompting her to later ask McCarthy about impeachment. But Murphy lamented the consequence of making Vice President Harris the president if Biden is impeached.
“I think number two is worse than number one. So this is the predicament that we’re in,” Murphy said. “Whether we can do this and whether we could tolerate Kamala Harris as president of the United States – I think she’s worse, to be honest.”