‘New normal’: GOP signals big headaches for Biden after midterms
Republicans are pledging big headaches for President Biden if they can win back control of one or both chambers of Congress next year.
Amid the days-long fallout over Afghanistan, GOP lawmakers have floated everything from launching select committees to impeachment to even questioning if Biden should be removed through the 25th Amendment.
The comments are, for now, just rhetoric that plays well with their base. But it’s also a potential preview of how a GOP-controlled Congress could try to trip up Biden heading into 2024.
“We are at a point in America where we see things like this from Congress all the time now. This is just part of the new normal,” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and former House leadership staffer.
In the minority in both chambers, Republicans are currently largely powerless to do much beyond use the issue to fire up their voters, file largely symbolic resolutions and urge Democrats or watchdogs to probe various parts of the Afghanistan exit strategy.
But Republicans are feeling bullish about their chances to win back the House, where they are all but guaranteed to pick up seats through redistricting maneuvering. And they need only a net gain of one seat to pick up the Senate majority.
Even just winning back the House would give Republicans enormous sway to use their high-profile perches to investigate or even hold impeachment proceedings against Biden.
Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and former campaign adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), warned that Democrats had opened a “Pandora’s box” during the Trump administration.
Republicans are “engaging in the behavior that they’ve been taught by Democrats,” Jennings said, adding that using a potential post-2022 majority to probe the botched Afghanistan exit would be an “absolute justified use of every oversight lever they have.”
Several GOP lawmakers are already arguing that Biden should be impeached.
“I think he should be impeached. I think this is the most dishonorable thing a commander in chief has done maybe in modern times,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who could chair the Senate Judiciary Committee if Republicans win back the upper chamber, said during an interview with the conservative website Newsmax.
The push from Graham is stark given his years-long ties to Biden.
But he’s hardly the only one.
A slew of House conservatives, including some of Trump’s biggest defenders, have called for Biden to be impeached.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed three impeachment resolutions against Biden, including for “dereliction of duty” of the Afghanistan exit, “endangering the security” of the United States and “countering the will” of Congress. The third was unrelated to Afghanistan, but about the eviction moratorium.
Republican Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.) called for Biden to “resign immediately” following the United States’ “botched withdrawal” from Afghanistan, while House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said Biden is unfit to hold office
If House Republicans took back the majority next year and impeached Biden in 2023 it would make him only the fifth president to be formally impeached.
It could also force the Senate to grapple with having its schedule hijacked by an impeachment trial. No president has ever been convicted, but the trials typically take up weeks of time and grind all other business to a halt.
Not every Republican is jumping on the calls supporting the idea of impeachment, which isn’t going anywhere given Democratic control of Congress.
“No,” McConnell told a Kentucky TV station, asked if he supported the call by Greene. “I don’t routinely react to those kinds of comments by members of the House.”
House Democrats twice impeached Trump — the first time in 2020 for abuse of power over his dealings with Ukraine, and again in the final days of his presidency in January 2021 for inciting an insurrection after a mob of his supporters breached the Capitol as lawmakers were formally counting Biden’s win.
Some Republicans warned at the time that they could use the tactic against a future Democratic president, making the threat of impeaching Biden if they take back the House all but inevitable.
“If it is a good idea to impeach and try former presidents, what about former Democratic presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022?” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said at the time.
Republicans haven’t just knocked Biden over Afghanistan; they’ve also hammered his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, and some have questioned his mental competency.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, raised eyebrows when he floated if Biden should be removed from office through the 25th Amendment, which allows a majority of the Cabinet or a group appointed by Congress to voluntarily remove a president.
“Is Joe Biden capable of discharging the duties of his office or has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?” Scott said in a recent tweet.
Republicans are also eager to investigate Biden. If they win back the House or Senate, they will have subpoena power that would allow them to try to force the administration to hand over documents or testify.
It would also give them the ability to force high-profile hearings, decisions that they are largely stuck on the sidelines for right now out of power.
“Is it too soon for us to start discussing an Afghanistan Select Committee to investigate exactly what happened and when?” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) tweeted, adding that she wants to “hear from the Americans that were on the ground about their experiences and get the questions answered about how this went so wrong, so fast.”
Pelosi started a select committee to probe the Jan. 6 attack after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission. Republicans have warned for weeks that they could use the same tactics, including having veto authority on which members of the opposing party can be on the panel, if they take back the House.
But several Republicans spread across key committees have suggested that they are eager to probe Afghanistan.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stopped short of pledging to form a select committee in 2023 if Republicans are back in the majority, instead pointing to the House’s already existing panels.
“We have people who have such expertise, who are on the ground, and knowing,” McCarthy told reporters. “I would take it through all committees, from Armed Services to Foreign Affairs to Intel.”
Scott Wong contributed