Top House Republicans are crafting a strategy to pummel Joe Biden and his Cabinet with investigations — and potential impeachments — next year after winning the majority.
Their right flank may yet wreck the whole plan.
Members of GOP leadership and committee chairs-in-waiting are months into the coordination of headline-grabbing probes to launch should they flip the House this fall, as is likely. At the same time, neither those Republicans nor Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are publicly weighing in on the possibility of a Biden impeachment — which would consume the country and trigger a backlash with unpredictable fallout for the party.
“I think that’s a question for the conference,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who typically doesn’t shy away from rhetorical bomb-throwing and just last year called for the president to resign, said of impeaching Biden in the next Congress.
Talk like that is doing little to prevent some of the conference’s biggest Trump acolytes from charging ahead with early vows to file impeachment articles even if it risks muddying the party’s messaging. It’s hardly the first time some members have zigged while their colleagues zag, but the rhetorical dissonance comes as party leaders are pressing for unity ahead of November.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and other firebrands have left a trail of breadcrumbs, filing 14 impeachment resolutions since early 2021 that signpost conservatives’ biggest targets if Republicans flip the House. Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland are at the top of the list.
Asked about impeaching Biden, Greene said that “I think that my colleagues will move to my position because that’s how their voters feel,” adding that she would “absolutely” be introducing articles next year.
In the president’s orbit, Democrats predict that House Republicans are on track for an overreach that will cause them painful blowback in 2024. One senior Democratic aide, addressing McCarthy on condition of anonymity, warned that a narrow GOP majority would embolden his right flank to his peril: “Those members will have his balls in such a vice grip that when they say ‘jump’, he’ll say ‘how high’, and it’ll be too late before he realizes the fall will kill them.”
But the calls for caution are also coming from inside the House, where some Republicans warn against getting pulled down a political rabbit hole with no chance of booting Biden from office.
“I hope we don’t” impeach Biden, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said. “I would argue we all know, at the end of the day, there’s not going to be a conviction in the Senate. It just injects poison into the system, causes a lot of turmoil.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who’s expected to lead the Oversight Committee should Republicans take the chamber, demurred recently when asked about a presidential impeachment.
“That will be a decision that Kevin McCarthy will have to make in communication with Jim Jordan,” Comer said.
During a Fox News appearance in August, he forecast that a GOP House would be “eager to try to impeach” Biden.
Asked lately about internal pressure to impeach Biden, however, Comer simply quipped: “I’m not under pressure, because that’s gonna be McCarthy’s job.”
Congressional leaders have typically treated presidential impeachments warily. Trump was only the third president ever impeached by the House. Chatter among Republicans about impeachment during the tea-party-fueled opposition to President Barack Obama never moved forward.
Asked recently about the prospect of impeaching Biden, McCarthy sidestepped: “We just went through four years of watching a political impeachment,” he told reporters. “We will uphold the law. We will not play politics with it.”
Nonetheless, internal party politics are bound to propel a vocal impeachment push if the GOP wins the House next month. Nearly 140 sitting House Republicans supported challenges to Biden’s 2020 victory that were fueled by baseless Trump-backed claims of widespread voter fraud, and still more GOP backers of those unfounded claims are poised to join Congress next year.
But base fervor doesn’t quite translate to votes, and impeaching Biden already appears close to out of reach for the House GOP. Of the Biden impeachment resolutions introduced since January 2021, the most support any counts is eight members. While those numbers could grow next year should Republicans take the majority, a broad swath of moderates, more pragmatic-minded members and even old-school conservatives would still need to be swayed.
Republicans view Mayorkas as a more likely impeachment target than Biden himself, though they would still need to convince leadership and moderates to get on board. Notably, McCarthy opened the door during a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mayorkas “has not lived up to his oath,” said Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), who demurred when asked about impeaching Biden.
Jordan, whose committee has purview over impeachments, said that the matter was up to members but that Mayorkas “deserves it” given his handling of the southern border. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said he would also file a Mayorkas impeachment resolution next year, predicting “plentiful” support from GOP colleagues.
Democrats have bristled over the GOP attacks against Mayorkas, warning that the party’s immigration rhetoric veers toward xenophobic. A person close to the administration accused Republicans of “launching politically motivated publicity stunts” rather than wanting to address border-related challenges.
But impeachment strategy isn’t the only oversight schism already cutting through the conference as it tries to lay the groundwork for its first majority since 2018.
Republicans need to decide if they will form a select committee for what would essentially be a Trump-free Jan. 6 investigation, as some have called for. The current Democratic-run Jan. 6 panel will automatically disband in early January, but Republicans could revive it to pursue their own targets, including reviewing the select committee’s finances.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump ally with a penchant for rattling leadership, said he’s had recent conversations with Republicans about the possible idea. But it’s also drawing skepticism from senior Republicans and McCarthy hasn’t backed it.
Another option for House Republicans seeking to erase Trump from the narrative of Jan. 6 failures would be using the Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections and Capitol security, to launch an investigation next year. Retiring Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, now the panel’s top Republican, and aspiring Administration successor Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) have both proposed that idea.
“I don’t know why you would need a select committee. The Senate didn’t need a select committee to do their job,” Davis said.
Then there’s a likely House GOP probe of Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings. Gaetz raised eyebrows within the conference recently by meeting with former Trump White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, who is floating himself as a potential staff director next year for an investigation of the First Son.
Gaetz said he met with Gorka “to discuss general strategy for a Republican expected majority, and I wanted his perspective on whether or not he would advise … one committee owning the Hunter Biden stuff.” The Floridian, who praised Comer’s work, said a potential select committee is part of discussions he’s having.
Comer, whose panel is expected to take the lead on a probe of the president’s son, shot down the notion of a select committee. And if one does take shape, a House Republican who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity said bluntly that Gaetz “will never lead that.”
The possible future Oversight chair also counseled his colleagues against letting themselves get pulled into the investigative weeds.
“We’ll request information, we’ll dig, we’ll do anything,” Comer said. “But I’m not putting my name on anything that’s not factual.”