Since the day President Joe Biden took office, Republicans have publicly called for his impeachment, introducing more than a dozen resolutions accusing him and his top officials of high crimes and misdemeanors and running campaign ads and fundraising appeals vowing to remove him from office at the first opportunity.
But in the homestretch of a campaign that has brought the party tantalizingly close to winning control of Congress, top Republicans are seeking to downplay the chances that they will impeach Biden, distancing themselves from a polarizing issue that could alienate voters just as polls show the midterm elections breaking their way.
“I think the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, told Punchbowl News this month. Although he didn’t rule out moving forward on impeachment hearings if something rose “to that occasion,” McCarthy said the country needed to “heal” and that voters wanted to “start to see the system that actually works.”
Still, should he become House speaker, McCarthy would be under immense pressure from hard-right members of his rank and file — and from core Republican voters who swept his party into the majority in part based on promises to take down Biden — to impeach. The pressure will only increase if former President Donald Trump adds his voice to those pushing for the move.
It is just one of the confounding issues McCarthy would face as speaker, testing his grip on power and bearing heavy consequences for Biden and the country. “There have already been impeachment articles, and I expect you’ll get more of that in the next Congress,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. “There’s certainly going to be pressure for this to go.”
Some influential Republicans have been moving aggressively toward impeachment for years, demanding punishment for Biden and his administration as well as vengeance for Democrats’ two impeachments of Trump.
Privately, many Republican lawmakers concede there does not appear to be any clear-cut case of high crimes and misdemeanors by Biden or members of his Cabinet that would meet the bar for impeachment. Pressed recently on whether Biden or any officials in his administration deserved to be impeached, McCarthy said, “I don’t see it before me right now.”
The response reflected an awareness that impeachment is deeply unpopular. A national University of Massachusetts Amherst poll released in May showed that 66% of voters oppose impeachment.