Not everyone in the House GOP caucus seems to be on board with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the MAGA Republicans’ talk of moving forward with a potential President Joe Biden impeachment.
Centrist Republicans and those from swing districts at home on recess are pouring cold water on the possibility as they point to the lack of substantial evidence for such a drastic step.
“Impeachment should not be political by any stretch,” freshman Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said, according to NBC News. “We’ve seen what happens when Congress acts in a political matter — it does not serve the interests of the American people in any way … So the question to me right now is do the investigations — are they producing enough facts and evidence that warrant taking it to the next step? I don’t think it’s there at the moment, but these committees are doing their job.”
The part that’s not being said out loud is that an impeachment could jeopardize some moderate and swing district Republicans’ reelection prospects. Balancing the whims of the far-right with the needs of vulnerable Republicans in his caucus has become McCarthy’s most pressing challenge as speaker in a slim majority.
Far-right House Republicans have been pushing a Biden impeachment for months while pressuring McCarthy by taking significant legislation hostage until their demands are met. The most recent version of this tit-for-tat has played out in the appropriations process as hardliners risk a shutdown by stuffing right-wing grievances into unrelated appropriations bills that won’t pass in the Senate.
As the appropriations process slowed down to a halt just before the August recess, McCarthy and House GOP leadership publicly teased their openness to an impeachment inquiry into Biden. That was a shift in tone from the Speaker that caused some confusion within the already deeply divided Republican caucus. So much so that McCarthy tried to downplay the seriousness of such a move by emphasizing, several times, that he’s only talking about a formal impeachment inquiry.
The confusion prompted a closed-door meeting in the Speaker’s office where McCarthy and GOP leaders reportedly discussed the difference between an impeachment inquiry and an actual impeachment in depth, according to CNN. The Speaker reportedly emphasized to his leadership team that an impeachment inquiry is just a way to launch a formal probe and get more information, and isn’t the same thing as impeachment. That messaging could be key to convincing moderates like Lawler and others in the GOP caucus who are skeptical of the effort to back an inquiry, CNN reported.
But it might take a bit more convincing.
Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Oh) told NBC News that as a county prosecutor he relied on “facts” and that the facts right now do not warrant impeachment.
“You hear a lot of rumor and innuendo … but that’s not fact to me,” Joyce said. “As a former prosecutor, I think there has to be facts, and I think there has to be due process that we follow, and I’ve not seen any of that today.”
“Some of the stuff obviously deserves further review,” he added, “but there is nothing hard in front of us at this moment to say that any of that is true.”
Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) — who narrowly won a district that voted for Biden — said he thinks there are “serious questions of impropriety” and emphasized that the House’s “proper role” is to “provide oversight.”
When asked what his bar would be for voting to impeach Biden, Molinaro told NBC News: “It’s an open question. I think at this point the committees are proceeding, and the administration would be wise to respond to those questions.”
Meanwhile Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said he thinks the president was “more involved” with his son’s business dealings than he admitted but that it was “too early for a formal impeachment inquiry.”
“We should have more confidence that actual high crimes and misdemeanors occurred before starting a formal impeachment inquiry,” Bacon told NBC News.