Congressional Republicans return to Washington this week, and far-right lawmakers who nearly blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy from taking over are urging him to hold a vote on launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden .
But McCarthy’s slim majority is under threat in the 2024 election, and a move to impeach Biden — especially without compelling evidence that the president committed high crimes or misdemeanors — would put the most vulnerable Republicans in a difficult situation.
Impeachment is not popular in the 18 districts that Biden won in 2020 but are currently held by House Republicans, according to an August poll commissioned by the Congressional Integrity Project, a nonprofit aligned with the Democrats. Five of those vulnerable incumbents — John Duarte of Modesto, Young Kim of Orange County, David Valadao of Hanford, Michelle Steel of Seal Beach and Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita — represent California districts.
Opinions on impeachment divide mostly along partisan lines: 84% of Trump voters in the poll said impeachment would be a serious investigative effort; 92% of Biden voters said it would be a partisan stunt. But Trump voters are slightly more divided on the issue than Biden voters. In swing districts, this gap could make all the difference.
California’s five most vulnerable Republican incumbents don’t appear to want to discuss impeachment. Their offices declined to comment or did not respond when contacted by The Times last week with questions on the subject.
But this silence will not prevent Democrats and their allies from pressing the issue. The Congressional Integrity Project launched a digital ad campaign Tuesday against the 18 Republicans in Biden’s district.
“After seven weeks at home, Rep. Mike Garcia is returning to Washington,” an announcement said. “America faces critical priorities: health care, the economy, the cost of living. But Republican MAGA leaders like (Kevin) McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene want to focus on their false impeachment of President Biden, even though they have no proof. All this to protect Donald Trump.
The call then directs viewers to call Garcia’s office to “tell him to focus on real priorities.” No false impeachment stunts.
The Constitution does not require a vote to open an impeachment inquiry, legal experts say. Previous investigations started with none.
But even if McCarthy held a vote, the measure might not pass. Democrats are almost certain to unanimously oppose it, and vulnerable Republicans could choose to vote against it. A handful of dissidents could destroy this effort. Even some far-right lawmakers disagree with the investigation, with a member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus calling the move “absurd.”
The impeachment drive also comes at a precarious time: The federal government will shut down by the end of the month unless both chambers can agree on legislation to send to the White House. McCarthy proposed a measure to extend the deadline and give lawmakers more time to negotiate since they are not yet close to a deal.
But even if McCarthy can agree to a compromise with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, he will need almost his entire party to agree.
Some far-right lawmakers have threatened to withhold voting on spending and others have threatened to oust McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) from the presidency if he doesn’t take a serious step toward impeachment.
The exact target of a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden remains unclear. Although many lawmakers have highlighted Biden’s son Hunter’s legal troubles, others have sought to highlight his handling of the U.S. military’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan and pointed to unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing as he was vice president.
The White House and its allies have repeatedly blasted Republican impeachment moves, calling them partisan and baseless. “Republicans are engaged in a purely political exercise,” Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, told the Times. “They are seeking to impeach the president without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing.”
If Republicans go the impeachment route, they “better have strong, compelling evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster at North Star Opinion Research, told the Times.
“Otherwise it looks like a publicity stunt,” he said. A publicity stunt impeachment inquiry, he added, would not sit well with undecided voters.
Los Angeles Times