New impeachment threat risks intensifying GOP turmoil
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.
- Under House rules, any member can bring what is known as a "privileged" resolution to the floor, which then forces a vote within two legislative days.
- The two-page resolution, which focuses on last February's Chinese spy balloon incident, was introduced this week in the wake of reports that Austin kept his hospitalization for complications from prostate cancer treatment secret from the White House and Congress for several days.
- In his statement on Friday, Rosendale cited U.S. airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen on Thursday, for which some lawmakers in both parties have said Biden should have sought congressional authorization.
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.
- 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.