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Efforts to impeach Biden may present risks for slim GOP House majority in 2024

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives at the Capitol in Washington, early Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, as Congress faces a deadline to fund the government by the end of the month, or risk a potentially devastating federal shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives at the Capitol in Washington, early Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, as Congress faces a deadline to fund the government by the end of the month, or risk a potentially devastating federal shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s directive for Republicans to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden may create big risks for the party in the upcoming election as it tries to retain its slim control over the chamber.

A formal inquiry into Biden was launched earlier this week following months of investigations into his administration and family’s foreign business dealings. It comes without taking a vote on the House floor, a reversal from McCarthy’s stance in the last several weeks.

“There’s a lot of accusations out there you just want the answers to," McCarthy told reporters. "Impeachment inquiry simply allows Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to be able to get the answers to the questions.”

The impeachment inquiry is centered around the president’s family’s foreign business dealings and whether a tax crimes investigation into his son, Hunter, was slow-walked or interfered with by the Justice Department. Republican investigators have not released evidence showing that the president was personally enriched by his son’s business activities.

Republicans won 18 districts in the 2022 midterms that voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election, which helped the GOP claim its narrow House majority. Many of them are rated toss-ups by election analysts heading into 2024 and how the impeachment inquiry plays out and is received could play a factor in who controls the chamber in the next Congress.

It was unclear if a vote would have had enough votes to pass with unanimous opposition from Democrats and several House Republicans who voiced concerns about the inquiry.

“It puts moderate Republicans in a bind. Particularly, these Republicans that are in swing districts whose constituents maybe support Biden or are skeptical of impeachment. They may be forced to vote on whether to vote to pass articles of impeachment,” said Matthew Green, a professor of politics at Catholic University. “The tell there is that McCarthy went back on his word to have a floor vote to pursue an impeachment inquiry, so he didn't have the votes and maybe those votes will appear if some significant evidence can be uncovered against the Biden White House, but the fact that it couldn't means that there’s Republicans who are very skeptical of this of this whole thing.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said on CNN’s “The Source” on Monday that making moderate Republicans vote for a Biden impeachment “100% puts them at risk,” but that an inquiry is different from an impeachment.

Biden-district Republicans are the reason that Republicans are in the majority, have the slim majority that we have today,” she said. “And if we want to keep that majority, we have to keep those folks in their seats.

McCarthy’s announcement was also met with skepticism from lawmakers who do not represent swing districts.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. and a member of the Freedom Caucus, has said publicly on several occasions that he is skeptical there is enough evidence that Biden committed a high crime or misdemeanor that would lead to impeachment.

“I'm not against impeaching Joe Biden, but I need evidence of treason, bribery, high crimes, or misdemeanors to cast my vote. I look forward to my briefing with @GOPoversight to discuss the evidence,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday.

Another risk for McCarthy and Republicans comes if the inquiry advances to formal articles of impeachment that would require a House vote to start a trial in the Senate. With just a five-seat majority, Republicans could not afford many defections from the effort to remove Biden from office.

Along with political losses inside the conference for McCarthy, who is already dealing with challenges to his position as speaker, a failed floor vote could cause problems with voters.

If impeachment articles get to the floor and they lose, because moderates plus conservatives don't vote for them, then you've disillusioned your base,” Green said. “That hurts the whole party's reputation with Republican voters. They may decide to support primary challengers, they may just decide not to vote in 2024, so it's a second risk that McCarthy is taking by pursuing impeachment at this stage.

Public opinion polling has found limited support in impeaching the president outside of Republicans. A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted in June found 51% of Americans said Hunter Biden’s legal troubles were “independent and unrelated to” Biden’s presidency. In a Fox News poll from early August, only 38% said they saw something illegal in the president’s alleged connections to “his son’s business dealings.”

Impeachment has taken on new meaning since former President Donald Trump’s first trial, with calls for removing Biden from office starting at the beginning of his term.

“Part of the problem here is that the way impeachment is being handled especially now is as more symbolic position-taking then a real substantive effort to uncover high crimes and misdemeanors,” Green said. “Once something becomes position-taking, then you just do it without concern for the consequences without regard for the consequences.”

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