Shutdown Sundae with an Impeachment on Top
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy adds an impeachment inquiry to the House’s docket. Will it help avoid a government shutdown?
There is much to be done if lawmakers want to avoid a government shutdown in just over two weeks from now. But like a fat kid at a Golden Corral, House Republicans are piling even more atop a very full plate.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced he is directing the House to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden’s business dealings. So far, House investigations of the president and his family, which had to wait until Republicans retook control of the chamber after the 2022 midterms, have “paint[ed] a picture of a culture of corruption,” the Speaker told members of the media.
“These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives,” McCarthy said during a Tuesday press conference. The responsibility for the impeachment inquiry will fall mostly on the House Oversight Committee, Judiciary Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee.
McCarthy’s move towards a “formal impeachment inquiry” appears to be something of a concession to House conservatives, the group whose support McCarthy must secure to get any bill to fund the government out of the House. The more funding bills that McCarthy can get out of the House, the better position he will be in to negotiate with the Democrat-led Senate.
If the divided legislative branch wanted to go about funding the government for the upcoming fiscal year the old fashioned way, a vast majority of the twelve appropriations bills would need to be passed in both the House and Senate and reconciled with one another before ending up on the Resolute Desk. Despite more progress on this front than in recent years, it was never very likely Congress would accomplish the job. Now, that route appears completely closed off, since friction between House conservatives and GOP leadership has resulted in the inability to move forward with the appropriations bill that would fund the Department of Defense.
The other option on the table, which was always more likely, is a continuing resolution to fund the government for a few months while negotiations over spending for the next fiscal year continue. Nevertheless, getting a continuing resolution across the finish line before time expires on September 30 has its own challenges. This is particularly the case in the House, where conservatives in the Freedom Caucus are continuing to put pressure on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to avoid a “clean” continuing resolution that will maintain spending levels established by the much bemoaned lame-duck omnibus of 2022. As The American Conservative has previously reported, the House Freedom Caucus has released a series of demands, which includes pared-back spending, border security guarantees, ending the weaponization of the federal government, putting a stop to “woke” Pentagon policies, and preventing “blank checks” to Ukraine.
McCarthy, who has previously signaled his support for an impeachment inquiry based on the Biden family’s apparent influence peddling business, might think this is a painless way to move the ball forward on government funding in order to avoid a shutdown. His case is not entirely convincing.
Certainly, House conservatives are welcoming the impeachment inquiry, but it does little to assuage their concerns with the actual issue at hand. Conservatives will not back down from their stated demands on a short or long-term government funding solution. They are already saying as much.
“We’re not interested in a continuing resolution that continues the policies and the spending of the Biden, Schumer, Pelosi era, and we’re not going to vote for it,” Rep. Scott Perry, the Freedom Caucus Chair, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
“Let me be very clear,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said later at the press conference, “I will not continue to fund a government at war with the American people.”
Leaving McCarthy’s office Monday night, likely with knowledge of McCarthy’s plan to announce the inquiry Tuesday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said she has “red lines” on continued funding for Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
Ultimately, impeachment is a political process. It would be ignorant to suggest that this impeachment inquiry has nothing to do with the 2024 election. Everyone, especially former President Donald Trump, the far and away GOP frontrunner who has been pushing McCarthy for a crackdown on the Biden cartel via impeachment, knows it. As TAC’s managing editor Jude Russo pointed out, McCarthy “is ensuring that 2020’s suppression of the Biden family’s malfeasance in the mainstream press is not repeated. There is no way for the media to avoid covering impeachment proceedings.”
But, as Russo asked in his Thursday column, is the juice worth the squeeze, particularly now?
When the Democratic House impeached Trump in 2019 over what some have said was the most perfect, beautiful phone call ever, it was a non-factor in the election. Sure, a global pandemic came in between that impeachment and the vote, but that only proves the point: 14 months in politics can be a lifetime—regretfully, just ask one Ron DeSantis. And sure, Democrats screamed impeachment throughout the 2020 cycle, but show me the voter who had Trump’s impeachment top of mind when entering the ballot box in the last presidential election. If Republicans wanted to maximize the benefit of such an inquiry, they might have considered waiting until 2024 was in full swing and Biden was actually campaigning.
In short, this could have waited until October, or maybe even later. As Russo argued, “running an impeachment is resource-intensive. Each House member has a limited amount of staff and time. An impeachment will effectively halt any work on the business of writing, refining, and whipping legislation.”
“Writing, refining, and whipping legislation” is exactly what the Speaker and House conservatives need to be doing until they avoid a government shutdown—not because shutdowns are some harbinger of armageddon, as the corporate media says, but because they are a political loser for Republicans time and time again.
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What seems more likely is that the impeachment inquiry will serve as a distraction while shutdown negotiations continue. A formal impeachment inquiry should have been part of closed-door negotiations surrounding government spending with an established timeline for its announcement after a shutdown was avoided. Some might say that the inquiry needed to be announced prior to guarantee this concession, especially given what happened in the debt ceiling fight earlier this year. But cases such as this is precisely why the conservative wing of the Republican party procured one particular concession to protect all others: If McCarthy failed to deliver on his promise to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, House conservatives could trigger a motion to vacate.
It is a risky play for the caucus, but the biggest loser of all would be the ousted McCarthy, a man known for his survivor mentality who wants to avoid a motion to vacate at all costs. But being a Republican means snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Even Sen. John Fetterman, who, post-stroke, can hardly remember how to speak, remembers that rule of American politics. When asked about the impeachment inquiry, the half-sentient Pennsylvania senator mockingly replied, “Oh my God, really? Oh my gosh, you know, oh, it’s devastating,” before outright laughing.
“Oooooooo,” Fetterman added, waving his hands superstitiously, “don’t do it! Please, don’t do it!”