Nov 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden-district Republicans brush off impeachment talk

Mike Lawler

Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.). Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Republicans who defended or flipped seats in districts that President Biden won in 2020 have a message for their party leaders: focus on the economy, not impeachment.

Why it matters: Some rank-and-file Republicans and leadership aides fear overly politicized investigations — including impeachment — may backfire on a party seeking to rebuild credibility among independents after an underwhelming performance in the midterms.

What we're watching: Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans said Congress should focus on a presidential impeachment investigation or Hunter Biden's finances, according to a Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.

  • That didn't stop top House Republicans from holding a press conference Thursday — the morning after officially taking the majority — vowing to investigate the Biden family's business dealings.
  • "This is kind of a big deal, we think — if we can keep it about Hunter Biden, that would be great," House Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) told reporters as he sought to rein in a Q&A.

What they're saying: Rep.-elect Zach Nunn of Iowa told Axios he wants to focus on the budget and investigating the withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding that any further action should be reserved for “those very rare situations where there may be laws broken.”

  • “The top priority is to deal with inflation and the cost of living. ... What I don’t want to see is what we saw in the Trump administration where Democrats went after the president and the administration incessantly," Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York said on CNN.
  • "I think that for at least the first six months, we should work on making this country energy-independent. We should work on reducing crime across metropolitan areas such as New York City. And then we can start talking about investigations," Rep.-elect George Santos, also of New York, said on Fox News.

Even some Republicans from more solidly red districts expressed reluctance about making impeachment the focus of their new majority.

  • "I don't want to start there," Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) told Axios when asked about impeachment. "I don't think our leadership wants to start there."
  • "It’s not something that I support at this juncture. … We need to really focus on economic issues. Inflation is killing us," said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), a member of the House Oversight Committee.

The intrigue: At least seven Biden-district Republicans — Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.) as well as Reps.-elect Mike Lawler, George Santos, Brandon Williams and Nick LaLota, all of New York, Jen Kiggans of Virginia and Juan Ciscomani of Arizona — attended Pelosi's retirement speech today.

Between the lines: The top Republicans on the committees set to lead investigations into Afghanistan and Hunter Biden — both topics of impeachment resolutions previously introduced by right-wing Republicans — distanced themselves from the notion that their probes are designed to lay the groundwork for impeachment.

  • "For me, [the motivation] is to get to the truth … mine is not political vendetta,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Axios.
  • "I've had members come up to me and mention that," Comer (R-Ky.) said of impeachment. “It’s not something that’s on my radar. I’m investigating and once we conclude the investigation we’ll turn it over to the appropriate people and go on to the next investigation."
  • “I don’t think it would have happened with even a bigger majority … there has to be a 'high crime' and/or misdemeanor," a senior House Republican aide told Axios. "What has Joe done?”

What to watch: The GOP-controlled committees will repeatedly call Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and others to testify.

  • Doing so achieves the purpose of drawing public attention to issues like the southern border, without risking going overboard and losing credibility with American voters.
  • "We will give him a reserved parking spot,” House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said of Mayorkas.
Go deeper