It would be like playing the Super Bowl at Churchill Downs.
The Stanley Cup Finals at Fenway Park.
Running the Indianapolis 500 in the old Boston Garden.
The 2024 presidential campaign likely won’t unfold in all the old familiar places.
The presidential proving ground for former President Trump may be in various courthouses, ranging from New York to Atlanta.
But House Republicans hope the presidential validation field for President Biden in 2024 is in the halls of Congress.
House Republicans didn’t accomplish much in 2023. But in mid-December, House GOPers finally conjured up the votes to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. That dynamic — emerging in an election year — could expose whether voters buy the GOP narrative that Mr. Biden, Hunter Biden and his family have something to hide about overseas business entanglements and financial dealings.
Or, the maneuver could reveal whether Republicans came up with blanks.
There is also the risk that voters believe the GOP is just engineering a not-so-shadow campaign to knife President Biden politically in 2024.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., began inching toward a House impeachment inquiry in late June and early July. But McCarthy never had the votes to officially launch an inquiry. And we all know what happened to McCarthy.
There were two camps of Republicans in the House when it came to impeachment. Not so much on whether the House should impeach Mr. Biden, but on how long an impeachment investigation should take.
One cohort of GOPers argued last summer they could wrap up the investigation soon and determine by fall whether they should impeach President Biden. They fretted about dragging things out into an election year. The other group didn’t set a timetable. Lawmakers appeared determined to let any inquiry run its course.
And so, here we are in 2024 — a presidential election year. Republicans burned valuable time through 2023 fighting over who should be Speaker of the House and potential rendezvous with government shutdowns and the debt ceiling. So is there any surprise impeachment drifted into 2024?
And therein lies possible trouble.
Of course, any impeachment investigation is dangerous for a sitting president. But historically, it has been just as dangerous for the party undertaking the impeachment investigation.
Consider for a moment: what political benefit has any party ever reaped from an impeachment? Ever? And that includes the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.
What do Democrats have to show with their two impeachments of former President Trump? Few consequences. Mr. Trump roared back stronger than ever after the Capitol riot and is the presumptive Republican nominee.
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What did House Republicans get from their impeachment of former President Clinton in 1998? Well, Republicans almost lost control of the House. And the Republicans of 1998 churned through two House Speakers. The Clinton impeachment signaled the end for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Gingrich’s intended successor — former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., never became Speaker. It was revealed the night before the House impeached former President Clinton for deeds related to his affair with Monica Lewinsky that Livingston had also had an affair. So Livingston stepped aside.
This is why impeachments are risky. They often backfire. And while there’s a lot of turmoil, they don’t shift the political landscape.
‘Without evidence, you simply cannot persuade those suburban voters who will sometimes vote Republican and sometimes vote Democratic, that the Republicans are doing the right thing in the House,’ said University of Mary Washington political scientist Stephen Farnsworth. ‘As much as the far right conservatives in the safe seats are going to want this impeachment inquiry to move forward, the reality is that doing so may very well cost the Republicans their majority.’
We have no idea how or if House Republicans will actually impeach President Biden.
It’s about the math.
Republicans begin 2024 with a 220-213 advantage in the House. The already meager GOP majority could dwindle further. Republicans cannot lose more than three votes on any roll call and still pass something without assistance from the other side.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, will resign in mid-January. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., is out until February recovering from cancer treatment. That means that in late January, Republicans effectively will have 218 operational votes in a 432-member House. They can lose two votes on any given roll call. Otherwise, the Democrats will prevail.
So, it’s unclear if Republicans will ever have the votes to impeach President Biden.
That presents the worst case scenario for the GOP.
Here are three problems:
If Republicans fail to impeach President Biden, the conservative base will be apoplectic.
That’s because Republicans have talked and talked about impeachment since President Biden took office. They potentially raised the bar and failed to deliver. Their voters could turn tail on them.
Then you have this mid-December impeachment inquiry vote. The average voter doesn’t follow the grand details of ‘impeachment’ and the difference between an inquiry and actually impeaching the president. But all House Republicans — including those from battleground districts or the 18 districts President Biden won — are on the hook. That vote alone could be enough to torpedo many of those Republicans in the general election, regardless of how they try to finesse it.
Finally, imagine Republicans not impeaching President Biden, but keeping impeachment on the table with regular hearings and days of closed-door depositions. The public wonders why Republicans are dithering. Their base is displeased that they didn’t impeach the President. Skeptics ask what Republicans are spending all of their time on.
It could be a lose-lose-lose scenario.
Never mind that Republicans run headlong into a legislative jumble later this month and February with possible government shutdowns. And utterly nothing is figured out about securing the border despite weeks of talks. That hamstrings the release of potential aid to Ukraine and Israel. Republicans linked President Biden’s international assistance package to border security. That may work politically. But now it’s looking like it’s imperiling any way to get Ukraine and Israel the money they need.
This is why Republicans are now teeing up a potential impeachment inquiry against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. And Republicans are planning to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for skipping out on a subpoena for a deposition last month.
A contempt of Congress citation cuts two ways.
Republicans will wail that Hunter Biden didn’t comply with a subpoena. But McCarthy, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Scott Perry, R-Penn., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., all defied subpoenas in 2022 from the House committee investigation the Capitol riot.
That said, it is hard for the House to enforce a subpoena against a sitting member from one of its committees.
However, watch to see if the Justice Department prosecutes Hunter Biden if the House holds him in contempt. The DoJ prosecuted former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for not complying with subpoenas. If the DoJ doesn’t prosecute, Republicans will argue that the Biden Justice Department is shielding the President’s son. Former President Trump will assert that he’s getting unfair treatment facing prosecution from Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Yes. States like Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and New Hampshire could determine who is president.
But the battlefield is in the halls of Congress and courtrooms across the nation.