Jan 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

New impeachment threat risks intensifying GOP turmoil

Rep. Matt Rosendale. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images.

With a federal funding deadline looming next week, a House Republican is threatening to force a vote on impeaching a Biden cabinet official into the mix.

Why it matters: It's hardly an empty threat – House members in the 118th Congress have made unprecedented use of their ability to force votes on rogue impeachments, censures and expulsion resolutions.

Driving the news: Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) said in a statement on Friday he will "strongly consider" forcing a vote on articles of impeachment against Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin next week if House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) doesn't bring them to the floor.

Between the lines: Austin, who remains hospitalized, was deeply involved in the planning and execution of the strike on the Houthis, according to Politico.

  • "[Austin] is now initiating confrontational actions against foreign countries from his hospital bed without congressional approval," Rosendale said in his statement.
  • A Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The backdrop: Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) rankled many of her GOP colleagues last June with a forced vote on a resolution to impeach Biden, which Republicans voted to refer to a pair of committees.

  • In November, a resolution from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed after eight Republicans defected and voted against impeachment.

State of play: Any vote to impeach Austin would likely be unsuccessful, despite sharp criticism from lawmakers in both parties – but particularly Republicans – towards Austin's secrecy around his health.

  • Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) told Axios he is "not likely to support" impeaching Austin, saying that any such measure should be sent "through [the] relevant committees" before a vote of the full House.
  • Another House Republican predicted that a "good number" of Republicans would likely vote against Rosendale's resolution – potentially as many as 40 or more, they said.

Remember: House Republicans hold just a two-vote majority, meaning just three defections on a party-line vote can kill most legislation.

The big picture: The resolution may add to many Republicans' political stress at a time when tensions between centrists and the right couldn't be higher.

  • Republican hardliners are increasingly floating an effort to try to oust Johnson as speaker as they pressure him to renege on a spending deal he struck with Senate Democrats.
  • Johnson, for his part, has held firm on the agreement, but has not said whether he would support a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown before four federal agencies run out of money on Jan. 19.
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