Jul 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy's can of worms

McCarthy is recorded by reporters on Capitol Hill today. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has thrilled hardline Republicans with his new threat to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. Now comes the hard part: following through.

Why it matters: McCarthy knows there are massive risks to impeaching Biden, especially if the exercise appears purely partisan: "I think the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all," McCarthy told Punchbowl News last October, before he became speaker.

  • The majority that the GOP won in the following month's midterms ended up being far smaller than many expected, salvaged by 18 Republicans elected in districts Biden won in 2020.
  • Those vulnerable "majority-makers" — who pushed back against calls to impeach Biden for his family's business dealings after the election — are now at risk of being drowned out by the right-wing Republicans propping up McCarthy's speakership.

Driving the news: McCarthy doubled down Tuesday after floating an impeachment inquiry on Fox News on Monday night, telling reporters that initiating the process would give investigators "the apex of the power of Congress" to gather information.

  • Two IRS whistleblowers testified last week that Justice Department officials interfered in the investigation of Hunter Biden. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also released an internal FBI document containing unverified allegations of a foreign bribery scheme involving the Bidens.
  • "We're watching this administration use government much like Richard Nixon used [it] by denying us to get the information that we need," McCarthy argued.
  • The Justice Department on Monday offered to make David Weiss, the Trump-appointed prosecutor leading the Hunter Biden investigation, available to testify to Congress after the August recess.

Between the lines: By Republicans' own admission, the investigation into alleged Biden family corruption has yet to uncover specific evidence of wrongdoing by the president himself.

Asked about Archer's potential testimony, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed Monday that Biden "was never in business" with his son.

Behind the scenes: Some moderate Republicans expressed frustration about McCarthy's move toward an impeachment inquiry, with one lawmaker telling Axios that impeachment talk "is not helpful" in their district.

  • "I think he's just trying to keep everyone happy right now and get us through the week," the lawmaker added, pointing to the ugly appropriations fight consuming the House.
  • DNC chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement previewing Democrats' line of attack: "It's clear that Donald Trump is the real speaker of the House. He has made sure the House majority is little more than an arm of his 2024 campaign, and Kevin McCarthy is happy to do his bidding."

The bottom line: McCarthy snapped at a reporter today who asked him about criticism that he's simply appeasing the right flank of his conference, stating defiantly: "This is about America."

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