Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote, at a time when he didn’t appear to have the votes. Republicans have a four-seat House majority, and currently, more than four Republicans indicated that they didn’t see grounds for an inquiry. But McCarthy spoke the support he needed into existence. The kind of ostensibly moderate Republican who didn’t want to see an impeachment inquiry will nonetheless go along with leadership for the sake of partisan advantage.
See, for instance, Rep. Don Bacon. In August, Bacon told NBC News, “We should have more confidence that actual high crimes and misdemeanors occurred before starting a formal impeachment inquiry.” Last week, as McCarthy announced his voteless inquiry, Bacon said, “As of now I don’t support” an inquiry, because it “should be based on evidence of a crime that points directly to President Biden, or if the President doesn’t cooperate by not providing documents.”
Less than a week later, Bacon’s position has shifted to cautious support. “I don’t think it’s healthy or good for our country. So I wanted to set a high bar. I want to do it carefully. I want to do it conscientiously, do it meticulously,” Bacon said. “But it’s been done. So, at this point, we’ll see what the facts are.”
No person who has observed House Republicans over the past eight months could possibly believe that they will proceed carefully, conscientiously, or meticulously. But Bacon has shown how much his opposition is worth—and how much it will be worth if he ever has to decide how to vote on impeachment.
Similarly, Rep. David Joyce said in August, “You hear a lot of rumor and innuendo … but that’s not fact to me. As a former prosecutor, I think there has to be facts, and I think there has to be due process that we follow, and I’ve not seen any of that today.” Now? In a statement, Joyce said, “I support Speaker McCarthy’s decision to direct the House Committees on Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.” What’s more, he’s “confident” that the committee leaders conducting the inquiry—Oversight Chair James Comer, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith—“will conduct thoughtful and thorough investigations into allegations against the President, which I will carefully review.”
Saying you’re confident Comer and Jordan will be “thoughtful and thorough” is kind of a tell that nothing you’re saying should be believed.
People like Bacon and Joyce know there’s no there there, but once McCarthy said the inquiry was happening, they fell in line. Because they’re Republicans, and the only principle in the Republican Party is power. The problem for them now is that if the inquiry wraps up quickly (not likely—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is calling for it to be “long and excruciatingly painful”), they’ll have to take a vote on it. But if it doesn’t wrap up quickly, it runs the serious risk of alienating voters and showing that House Republicans are unserious about governing.
Strikingly, the House Republican who is speaking out against the impeachment inquiry most loudly is Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling the current inquiry a “flimsy excuse for an impeachment.” In the politics of today’s Republican Party, being a member of the far right entitles Buck to take that kind of stance, while Republicans who represent districts Biden won in 2020 have to regularly show their fealty to the party by supporting extreme positions.
And let’s be real—Buck is likely to end up voting for impeachment, too, if the House ever gets to that point rather than engaging in a dragged-out show trial.
What do you do if you’re associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you’re Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris’ 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before “casting” them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won’t shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.