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Impeach Joe Biden? The idea is growing among some Republicans in Congress

Impeach Joe Biden? The idea is growing among Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Party brass just beat back a push to impeach the president. It's not clear they'll hold off forever.

Republican brass just beat back an impeachment push. It's not clear they'll hold off forever

Two women standing and heckling

A fever is building on Capitol Hill, and for some Republicans, the only cure is impeaching U.S. President Joe Biden.

That passion bubbled onto the floor of the U.S. Congress this week.

Despite efforts from Republican leaders to suppress this talk — and despite their publicly stated view that it could backfire against their party — some populist lawmakers moved to scratch a right-wing itch.

They forced a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, as Rep. Lauren Boebert, until recently the owner of a handgun-themed restaurant, took a shot at impeachment.

She used a procedural tactic to fast-track an impeachment vote to the dismay not only of her leadership but some of her rival rabble-rousers.

An argument broke out on the floor, where Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene swore at Boebert, accusing her of stealing her idea.

Boebert's fast-tracked resolution, indeed, mimicked the rationale of Taylor Greene's earlier one, introduced through regular procedure: that Biden should be removed from office for failing to control migration at the southern border.

"What more investigation is needed?" said one Republican, Bob Good of Virginia, arguing for impeachment.

"What more investigation is needed for [Biden's] violation of Article Four, Section Five [of the Constitution for] responsibility to protect the States from invasion?

"How long will we let this border invasion continue?"

The upshot for now: The party found a way to delay a vote, by referring the issue to a pair of congressional committees.

So it's been stalled — for now. Yet this flash of melodrama highlights dynamics likely to resurface in Washington in the leadup to next year's presidential election.

A person gestures while speaking at a lectern.

What happens next?

A fundamental political fact is that most Republican voters want the president impeached, creating pressure for their representatives to pursue it.

It's also true, according to polling, that impeachment would be risky, at best, and disastrous, at worst, with the overall public in the runup to voting day.

With that in mind, this week's events point to three upcoming litmus tests: for the Republican Party, for the president and for the role of impeachment in U.S. politics.

On the latter, we're now seeing presidential impeachment go from a solemn once-in-a-century affair, to a once-in-a-generation affair in recent decades, to a semi-regular occurrence.

The scorching intensity of modern-day partisanship risks torching the old understanding of the Constitution's ultimate political penalty.

In its place, we could find something more customary, and less consequential, where it increases in occurrence and decreases in its potential practical effect.

As the two impeachments of Donald Trump revealed, these days, the chances are microscopic of a House impeachment actually resulting in two-thirds of the Senate agreeing to oust a president from office.

Biden's impeachment would further entrench the mechanism as little more than a vote of censure: embarrassing, maybe, awkward, certainly, but mostly powerless: a 236-year-old paper tiger from the 1787 Constitution.

As for the effect on Republicans, their leaders have expressed concern.

Black and white portrait

The political risks for Republicans

Look no further than Trump's first impeachment for a clue into why. During that months-long process, his approval ratings improved, albeit marginally, and temporarily.

You could already see the Democratic attack line taking shape in this week's House debate. They cast this as rabid partisanship, their rivals as extremists, frothing at the mouth and oblivious to the everyday concerns of ordinary voters.

"The Republican Party is a joke," Democrat Jim McGovern said during the House debate, opining, tongue-in-cheek, that the rush to impeach was actually a battle of attention-seeking Trumpists.

"The truth is that Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy has lost control of this House, and it is being run by the MAGA fringe. This is nuts. Kids get shot in their classrooms. Nothing [happens]…. Our air is clogged with smoke because half the Northern Hemisphere is on fire due to climate change. Nothing [happens].

"But when the MAGA wingnuts say to jump, Speaker McCarthy says: 'How high?'"

To be fair to McCarthy, he didn't exactly jump. He's cognizant of the potential blowback.

Trump raising fist

The Republican leader has been saying since last year that the public doesn't like partisan impeachments and it would not be a priority if he won control in Congress.

Just this week, he told his caucus it was politically unwise. He said, according to CNN, that it could cost Republicans their small majority in 2024.

What GOP leaders want: To dig into Biden dirt

McCarthy later added in public that to do this prematurely would undercut ongoing investigations being carried out by Republican-led committees.

And that brings us to the president.

Biden faces some political headwinds. And it's doubtful that either impeachment, or the southern border, are the two likeliest to keep him up at night.

In fact, an impeachment over migration could help Biden politically.

He'd be able to point to the latest trendline showing the migration surge easing slightly, if still high by historical standards.

And it would mean less focus on another, escalating, problematic storyline that Biden is clearly not keen to discuss.

It involves allegations of conflicts of interest and corruption.

The Biden family's finances are under the microscope of congressional investigations. This week, Republican leaders pleaded with their members to be patient with impeachment and let these processes continue.

A screen grab

According to newly released transcripts, two former IRS employees have alleged that they were investigating multiple tax felonies committed over numerous years by the president's son, Hunter Biden, involving undeclared revenues from abroad, including from a politically connected company from China in 2017.

The IRS staff alleged they had text messages where the son claimed Joe Biden was well aware of his work, despite public denials. More recently, while Biden was president, the Department of Justice repeatedly interfered to thwart their investigation, the tax collectors claimed.

The employees both made the allegations in recorded interviews and in signed statements, one of them anonymously.

Middle-aged man in tuxedo

A transcript, and a testy White House press conference

Both said they were told by a U.S. attorney not to interview the president's relatives as it could land them in hot water: "That was completely abnormal," one told Republican investigators, according to a transcript.

Hunter Biden has since negotiated a misdemeanor plea deal on lesser charges and will not face prison time.

The allegations prompted a tense White House briefing on Friday. The president's press secretary was asked repeatedly for a response to the allegations and refused to comment.

Karine Jean-Pierre said she had not discussed the issue with the president and did not plan to.

WATCH | Hunter Biden to plead guilty to federal tax charges:

Hunter Biden to plead guilty to federal tax charges

4 days ago

Duration 2:05

Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, has reached a deal with the Justice Department to plead guilty to two misdemeanour charges of willfully failing to pay income taxes but was spared a felony firearm charge — a move Republicans are criticizing a special treatment.

In the meantime, Republican investigations continue.

On Friday, Rep. Taylor Greene, an erstwhile fringe figure who's now an ally of the Speaker, said she had just met McCarthy and announced that new congressional probes are coming — one into the attorney general, another into the head of the FBI.

"If it leads to impeachment, the Speaker is just fine with it," Taylor Greene told Fox Business.

In other words, Capitol Hill Republicans plan to keep building a case for impeachment, while pressure builds on them to pull the trigger.

The effect on the 2024 election: To be determined.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander Panetta is a Washington-based correspondent for CBC News who has covered American politics and Canada-U.S. issues since 2013. He previously worked in Ottawa, Quebec City and internationally, reporting on politics, conflict, disaster and the Montreal Expos.

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