Comment: GOP’s impeachment math isn’t adding up to a win

Republican hard-liners have backed their speaker into a corner, but won’t get much out of this effort.

By Debra J. Saunders /

Impeachment now is just a gimmick; it’s no longer the first fearsome step taken to remove a president who committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” from office.

It’s something leaders of both parties feel they have to support in order to appease their base. And without the consequences of removing a president from office.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., oversaw two impeachments of former President Donald Trump that went nowhere. They pleased the base, but not the middle.

Now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is not in an enviable position as Republicans weigh impeaching President Biden.

Even with a slim majority of 222 Republicans, McCarthy was hard-pressed to produce the 218 votes needed to launch an impeachment investigation. He has been wedged between 18 GOP members who represent districts that Biden won in 2020 and a rump of hard-liners such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, who believe overpromising and underdelivering are smart politics.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo — of the Freedom Caucus, so he’s no wimp — told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki that evidence linking Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor “doesn’t exist now.”

Rather than choose a side, McCarthy launched an “impeachment inquiry” into Biden.

The Biden White House distributed quotes from other Republicans also not on the impeachment express train.

This can’t be good for the GOP. Besides, impeachment has been overused in the last couple of decades. President Bill Clinton was impeached but not removed from office. Trump’s two impeachments did not result in convictions.

Now if this House were to impeach Biden, that vote would be a gesture, not a salvo.

All Washington knows that a majority of the Democratic-controlled Senate is not going to convict Biden; so forget about the two-thirds vote threshold needed to remove a president.

And the fact that McCarthy had to launch the inquiry on his own; that’s not a good sign.

White House spokesperson Ian Sams sent out a memo to media organizations in which he urged journalists to treat Republicans’ “unfounded” claims about the Bidens with “appropriate scrutiny.”

Asked about McCarthy’s move during Wednesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested “the only reason” McCarthy is doing “this political stunt” is because Greene and other hard-liners threatened to shut down the government, as a Sept. 30 deadline looms.

“Can you imagine shutting down the government over a political stunt?”

Actually, I can imagine Republicans shutting down the government over a political stunt. And we know how that ends. When real people start losing their salaries over a stunt, the heat is relentless.

In 2019, after the longest partial shutdown in American history, Donald Trump himself caved on his pledge not to sign a spending bill that didn’t fund a border wall. Then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was triumphant.

Now McCarthy is hanging by a thread. He’s supposed to be the leader, but with MTG and Gaetz on his team, he’s a hostage.

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at Copyright 2023,

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