The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion If Republicans take the House, they’re going to impeach Joe Biden

(Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
5 min

Republicans are already planning investigations to embarrass the president if they win control of the House, though they have yet to decide whether to impanel a permanent select committee on Hunter Biden or merely spread a dozen Hunter Biden investigations among existing committees.

For a moment there, you weren’t sure if I was joking, were you? The truth is that there will indeed be Hunter Biden investigations if the GOP takes over, since what to do about the president’s pitiable son is clearly the most pressing challenge America faces; only the permanent select committee idea is fanciful.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who would lead the Oversight and Reform Committee in a GOP House, says Hunter Biden would be one of its top targets. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Fox News personality with a side gig as a member of Congress, will be spearheading the effort.

But Hunter probes — along with desk-pounding hearings on other alleged Biden administration misdeeds designed to generate sound bites to be replayed nightly on Fox — will not satisfy the constituency of a GOP majority. Which is why pressure will immediately begin building to impeach President Biden.

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For what, you ask? For whatever. It doesn’t matter; what matters is the cycle Republicans will be locked into, in which they both create and respond to the base’s demand for more combativeness, more scandal and, ultimately, a way to strike a fatal blow at the president they loathe.

The loopier House Republicans are already preparing to impeach Biden, as The Hill reports. No fewer than eight impeachment resolutions have been introduced in this Congress by the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). With control of the House, that desire will likely build and expand, to the point where the party leadership could find it impossible to resist.

If you remember the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton, this sounds awfully familiar. The fact that impeachment was a political disaster for Republicans will do little to restrain them from doing it all over again.

During the Clinton years, the Republican base was just as interested in wild conspiracy theories as the Trumpist base is now. Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, the Jim Jordan of his day, fired a bullet into a head-shaped fruit, probably a cantaloupe, in his backyard in a deranged attempt to prove that Vince Foster, a friend of the Clintons’ who died by suicide, had been murdered. It was a common belief among the GOP base that Bill and Hillary Clinton had murdered dozens if not hundreds of their political enemies.

It was only when Kenneth Starr’s endless Whitewater investigation discovered Clinton’s affair with a young staffer — a thing that actually happened — that Republicans moved ahead with impeachment. They thought they had the president dead to rights, and were shocked to discover that most Americans did not share their white-hot eagerness to remove him. His approval rating just after the Senate voted to acquit him was a remarkable 68 percent.

Just as relevant is what happened after 2010, when Republicans took the House and embarked on just the kind of investigation-palooza they’re now planning. They searched desperately for a Barack Obama scandal and kept coming up empty, for the simple reason that his administration, beyond a few banal controversies, was relatively free of misbehavior and malfeasance.

When that combined with an endless series of pointless votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act that became less a symbol of determination than of futility, the Republican base grew increasingly frustrated. They began to see their party’s leadership (then led by John A. Boehner of Ohio) as feckless and feeble. They became angrier and angrier, and the eventual result was that they turned to Donald Trump, a candidate who encouraged and embodied their seething rage.

If the GOP takes the House again, Trump himself will continue to call for revenge, not only for his two impeachments but for the mere fact that he lost the 2020 election. His supporters will undoubtedly agree, and demand action. Does anyone think Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has the fortitude to resist?

So what will they impeach Biden for? They’re tossing around ideas: His border policies are slightly less draconian than Trump’s, or the Afghanistan withdrawal was chaotic or something about Hunter.

It’s all pretty weak sauce, and Republicans with the remotest grip on reality know you can’t impeach a president merely because he’s from the other party and you don’t like losing.

Which is the real reason they want to do it, and the reason they’re likely to follow through. So with the base growing more and more furious, they’ll search for something, anything, they can use to justify Biden’s impeachment, no matter how ridiculous.

If impeachment doesn’t happen by the end of 2023 with a Republican-controlled House, it would be a shock. And it could all but guarantee Biden’s reelection.