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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Republicans are divided on impeaching Biden as panel begins new inquiry

The push to impeach President Biden comes amid a fierce struggle between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a right-wing faction of his party.

By Karoun Demirjian

Republicans are deeply divided over impeaching President Joe Biden, with newly energized lawmakers on the far right applying pressure to do so and leaders and rank-and-file members concerned they have undertaken a politically risky battle that they cannot win.

A vote last month to send impeachment articles against Biden for his border policies to the Homeland Security Committee alongside the Judiciary Committee amounted to a stalling tactic by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to quell the urgent calls for action from the hard right. But it has also highlighted the rifts in the House GOP over moving forward and complicating a separate monthslong drive by the panel to prepare an impeachment case against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, for the same offenses.

Neither pursuit appears to have the votes to proceed, and many Republicans are worried that without a stronger case against the president, even trying the move could be disastrous for their party.

Several rank-and-file Republicans from politically competitive districts had balked at the idea of impeaching Mayorkas, even after McCarthy endorsed that push. Few believe that the new investigation of Biden — a hastily arranged effort designed to halt a right-wing attempt to impeach the president outright with no investigation — will yield anything that could persuade them to oust him.

“We’re supposed to impeach on high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and a moderate who previously stated he opposed impeaching Mayorkas over a policy disagreement. When asked whether he was any more inclined to support impeaching Biden for the same reason, he answered, “Not really.”

Even among Republicans who support removing Biden, there is deep skepticism about whether focusing on his border policies is the best place to build an impeachment case against him.

“To be frank with you, I think that our issue is a side issue — it’s not the main issue here,” said Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., and a member of the homeland security panel. He said accusations of financial impropriety involving the president’s son, Hunter Biden, which are being investigated by the House Oversight Committee, are “where the president really is going to have the majority of his problems.”

But that panel has yet to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by Biden despite months of scrutiny and the frequent public claims by top Republicans that he has engaged in corrupt and potentially criminal behavior.

The push to impeach Biden comes amid a fierce struggle between McCarthy and a right-wing faction of his party that has been in open revolt ever since he struck a debt ceiling deal with the president. That faction includes Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who forced a vote in June demanding Biden be investigated on allegations of having “intentionally facilitated a complete and total invasion at the southern border.” Her resolution made no mention of Mayorkas.

The measure thrust McCarthy into an awkward position. Despite his frequent criticism of Biden for having “failed” the country with “open-border policies,” the speaker has pushed back on efforts to impeach the president, arguing Republicans had yet to articulate a good reason for doing so.

The move also forced the House Homeland Security Committee to abruptly pivot barely a week after Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., the chair of the panel, presented a 55-page report detailing “why Secretary Mayorkas must be investigated for his border crisis” — the preliminary findings of an inquiry he has been heralding for months.

Since early spring, Green has been laying out a sprawling case against Mayorkas. The representative took his panel to visit points along the U.S.-Mexico border as he tried to back up his assertion that the secretary is to blame for rising unlawful entries, drugs and cartel-related crime and a drop in morale among Border Patrol officials.

He recently suggested to reporters that the mandate to investigate Biden could be an extension of his current plans for scrutinizing Mayorkas, which he has said will take place in five phases, beginning with a look at whether the homeland security secretary was derelict in his duty.

“We’ve been looking into the complete failures, the Biden administration’s complete failures at the southwest border,” Green told reporters, adding that when it comes to Biden’s personal actions, “we will dig deeply into it.”

What exactly he meant was not clear. While Green has frequently claimed Mayorkas is culpable for carrying out the Biden administration’s border plans, he has also argued that the case against the secretary is more egregious than mere policy disagreements. He has accused him of having “either violated or subverted at least 10 laws” and having “blatantly lied to the United States Congress under oath on multiple occasions and lied to the American people at least 58 times” — charges the Department of Homeland Security denies.

Green has also avoided describing the goal of his panel’s work as “impeachment,” saying it would be up to the Judiciary Committee to make such determinations. That stance now clashes with the House’s explicit instruction to his committee to investigate Biden on impeachment charges.

The Judiciary Committee traditionally writes and approves articles of impeachment before they are sent for a vote by the full House. The recent vote on Boebert’s measure sent the articles against Biden to both panels.

In the absence of clear direction, Republicans on the homeland security panel are struggling to figure out how to prioritize their new Biden-focused charge without undermining their ongoing inquiry into Mayorkas. Some suggested that the new priority would prolong the committee’s work on Mayorkas, which Green had predicted would wrap up in early fall.

“It might change timing,” said Rep. Austin Pfluger, R-Texas, adding that while it was “probably important” to continue on both tracks, the referral for Biden made that line of inquiry “really important.”

Others suggested that completing a case against Mayorkas would only help them to build an argument against Biden, who set the policies Mayorkas has carried out.

“Our focus on Secretary Mayorkas has been squarely over enforcement of immigration law and border policy, but I think the subject matter was limited,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C. “This inevitably opens it up to other questions.”

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