The House Speaker is living up to his last name, reviving a 21st century McCarthyism with lots of ominous sounding allegations about bank records and shell corporations delivered with a somber tone—but without any evidence to back up the alarming words.
He looks California cool under fire, but launching an impeachment inquiry is a desperation measure to keep the hostage takers in his own caucus from taking away his power.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made his deal with the devil when he ceded sufficient clout to the rightest of the right-wing crazies to gain their votes after 15 humiliating ballots. That bill comes due now as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the Queen of the Extremists, puts down her marker: She would not vote to fund the government without an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
When MTG speaks, McCarthy listens. His job is to muster majorities for spending bills that will keep the government open beyond the Sept. 30 deadline. He has such a narrow margin that he can’t lose more than three or four votes, and MTG speaks for at least a dozen hardliners.
McCarthy has no choice but to do her bidding if he wants to keep his job. His deal with the devil includes a provision that any one member of his caucus has the power to force a vote on the House floor calling for his removal, a vote that would be more humiliating than the first one, and that he would likely lose.
So, he chose the path of least resistance, alleging without evidence that Biden is guilty of “abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption”—charges that sound remarkably similar to what former President Donald Trump is contending with on the campaign trail, except the allegations against the former president are buttressed by 91 counts brought in four different jurisdictions. Conversely, the allegations against Biden for allegedly profiting from his son’s influence peddling are buttressed by no evidence—just smears and wishful thinking on the part of Republicans.
“We will go wherever the evidence takes us,” McCarthy intoned before turning on his heels to avoid the barrage of questions from reporters.
He’s playing for time to stave off a recall vote, doing just enough to keep the far-right at bay. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Almost exactly four years ago, McCarthy, then the minority leader, introduced a resolution assailing then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi for launching an impeachment inquiry into Trump by “unilateral decree of the Speaker” and without a full House vote.
Just days ago, on Sept. 1, McCarthy told Breitbart News, “To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives. That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House, and not through a declaration by one person.”
He’s “directing” three committee chairmen to begin an impeachment inquiry, which according to the Constitution can’t proceed without a House floor vote. He’s engaging in wordplay, giving the hardliners their language on impeachment and hoping the more moderate Republicans can find cover in this more limited scope.
McCarthy doesn’t have the votes to muster a floor majority—at least not yet—and Republicans are at each other’s throats with MTG holding government funding hostage to impeachment. She’s unconcerned that a vote for impeachment, should it occur, would almost certainly throw 18 Republican moderates overboard in districts Biden won.
Impeachment is a fool’s errand for the party doing the impeaching. Trump didn’t “learn his lesson” after his first impeachment, as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) predicted. A second impeachment also didn’t lead to a conviction, further emboldening Trump.
President Bill Clinton’s approval ratings soared into the 60s during his impeachment. Democrats gained seats in the 1998 midterm on the strength of voter backlash to what seemed like an overzealous prosecutor. A Republican-controlled Senate failed to muster even 50 percent, let alone the two-thirds majority needed to convict. Newt Gingrich, then the House Speaker, resigned soon after under a cloud of ethics violations.
Democrats were prepared for this eventuality. Borrowing a page from the Clinton war room, the White House has revved up its legal team and communications staff to cordon off its impeachment defense. An array of outside groups prepared to act as rapid response are in place. “Investigate the investigators,” a phrase now deployed by Republicans, originated with the Clinton team.
Minutes after McCarthy’s announcement, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), former chair of the DNC, was on cable news making the case that a dozen or so MAGA extremists in the House GOP caucus are “a fully owned subsidiary of the Trump campaign.” According to Wasserman-Schultz, they are “allowing Trump to hold our economy hostage and to potentially crash our economy.”
The more immediate hostage is McCarthy, whose goal is to stay in office no matter what. His impeachment “inquiry” is a lot like Trump imploring Ukraine’s president in 2019 to just announce an investigation into his potential rival, Joe Biden, and he would do the rest.
For no good reason other than petty intra-partisan politics, the government could run out of money and hard-won Republican seats in blue states like New York and elsewhere could be at risk—just to go through the motions of an inquiry that has no legitimacy and is likely to end badly for the GOP.
This is all political fun and games, except there’s real work to be done. The government runs out of money on Sept. 30 and disaster aid for wildfires and hurricanes and flooding are on the line, together with vital assistance to Ukraine.
Government shutdowns are losers for the economy, for the American people, and for the party that bears the most blame for putting the world’s greatest democracy through what amounts to a shakedown.