The US House of Representatives returns this week from yet another long and unearned recess with only 12 working days until the deadline for funding the government for the fiscal year which starts October 1.
Senate committees have already cleared all 12 appropriations bills, largely on a bipartisan basis, for floor action. But House Republicans are holding the government hostage, refusing to budge unless the ultra-conservative wing’s ever-changing demands are met.
Topping their list is the impeachment of President Joe Biden. Not that they have any hard evidence to support such a move, but the invertebrate Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, is expected to give them the go-ahead because he knows if he doesn’t, they might take away his gavel.
Two of the most extreme of the GOP extremists are pushing the hardest. Conspiracy theorist, Christian nationalist, and Jewish space laser discoverer Marjorie Taylor Greene has put McCarthy on notice. She won’t vote to fund the government unless he begins impeachment proceedings.
She and the other crazies are demanding that McCarthy renege on the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement he made with Biden in May, and if that means shutting down the government, so be it.
Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) shrugged off a shutdown. “Most Americans won’t even miss it,” he said. “We need to do that,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia. No one will miss it – with the possible exception of those on Social Security and Medicare, members of the military, civil servants, businesses large and (especially) small doing business with the federal government, farmers, and millions more.
Some of the MAGA Republican demands call for ending Defense Department “woke” policies, whatever those are; cutting aid for Ukraine; building Trump’s border wall; harsher immigration laws; eliminating funding for COVID-19 vaccines; defunding special prosecutor Jack Smith’s investigation of the disgraced former president; rescinding Trump’s two impeachments; defunding the FBI and IRS, and the list goes on.
In a word: chaos, and then blame it all on Biden.
Even if they produce their preferred version of House spending bills, there is no chance the Democratic-led Senate would go along, much less that Biden would sign them.THEY’VE DONE this before, targeting presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; both times it backfired. This would be the fourth time in the past decade. All failed.
The Republican Party will throw the US government into chaos and blame it all on Biden
Greene, who has McCarthy by the short hairs and has become one of the most influential House Republicans, said she will vote against funding the government unless McCarthy launches an impeachment inquiry. She introduced her first impeachment resolution the day after Biden was inaugurated, which tells you how serious she is about impeachment. And she wants it now, complaining on CNN that McCarthy isn’t moving fast enough. “That’s not what the donors are donating money for,” she revealed.
The dwindling number of GOP moderates, most coming from swing districts that Biden won in 2020, are fearful that could cost them reelection. Some even had the audacity to point out that as much as Greene and others want to impeach Biden, they have no hard evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Only their own overwrought conspiracy theories and rhetoric.
Matt Gaetz, who led the opposition to McCarthy’s speakership, is threatening to take away the Republican leader’s gavel. “That means forcing votes on impeachment. And if Speaker McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long,” he warned.
Gaetz relented on a 15th humiliating vote for Speaker (voting present) only after Greene got Trump on the phone to tell him to end the fight. One of the concessions he got was that a single member could force a vote to vacate the speakership and throw the House into turmoil. Now he’s threatening to use it.
Gaetz thinks enough Republicans will vote to impeach to force a trial in the Senate. He knows it is unlikely the Senate would convict Biden, but he doesn’t really care. He’s really looking for a platform to boost Trump’s 2024 campaign by smearing Biden. Remind anyone of the “perfect phone call” to Kyiv?
The two parties have starkly different standards for impeachment. Trump was impeached for extorting a foreign leader by withholding essential military aid in exchange for political dirt on an opponent, and then for inciting an insurrection. In the past, Republicans have had a much lower threshold: lying about oral sex.
MAGA Republicans also are pushing a vote to rescind Trump’s two impeachments, which most likely cannot be done.
Trump’s backers among top House GOP leaders are also accusing Biden of weaponizing the judicial system even as they ignore Trump’s threats to do just that to wreak revenge for all the wrongs, real and mostly imagined, he faced. He still wants to lock up Hillary Clinton.
Fortunately for Trump, House Republicans are more interested in avenging his grievances than in enacting bipartisan legislation that could pass the Senate and be signed by Biden. They prefer the easier course of passing partisan messaging bills, defending Trump, and trashing Biden.
That’s something familiar to the hapless speaker. It was then-majority leader McCarthy himself who boasted on national television in 2016 that all those fruitless Benghazi investigations were really a ploy to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
Trump has another legal team, this one paid for by taxpayers (since he is notorious for stiffing people who work for him). It is led by House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan, who, judging by his performance in that role, reached his level of competence as an assistant college wrestling coach.
He has been sending letters and subpoenas to federal and state prosecutors demanding their notes, evidence, and all other documents related to their investigations of Trump, who faces 91 criminal indictments – so far.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Washington Post that the real goal of GOP efforts like Jordan’s is to “tamper with the jury before they’re seated.”
Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis responded to Jordan’s demands with a scathing indictment of his qualifications and intentions. She accused him of promoting his own “partisan political objectives” and said it is “clear that you lack a basic understanding of the law, its practice, and the ethical obligations of attorneys generally, and prosecutors specifically.”
Far Right Republican extremists may succeed in shutting down the government and impeaching Biden, but history has shown those blunt instruments have a way of backfiring. Meanwhile, the people’s business takes second place – a distant second place – to extremists’ grandstanding.
The writer is a Washington-based journalist, consultant, lobbyist, and former American Israel Public Affairs Committee legislative director.