The call is coming from inside the House—and the Senate.
Though it was hardly a surprise that the launching of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden would be received icily by Democrats, it seems Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his allies will also have to contend with discontented lawmakers within their own ranks.
A number of Senate Republicans who spoke to The Hill on Tuesday did not mince words about the announcement, with one anonymous legislator labeling it “a fool’s errand.”
“It’s a waste of time,” that senator said, explaining that, even if the House could force through a vote to impeach Biden, the Democrat-controlled Senate would never allow it to go through.
“Maybe this is just Kevin giving people their binkie to get through the shutdown,” they speculated, referring to a looming Sept. 30 deadline to pass a continuing resolution and stop the government from grinding to a halt.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) full-throatedly criticized the choice to move forward with an inquiry. “The bar for impeachment seems to get lower and lower every year,” she said, according to Reuters. She told other reporters that the process would distract from Congress’ ability to pass the dozen-odd bills needed to avert a shutdown.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the minority whip, was diplomatic in his response, telling reporters that he didn’t think “it’d be advantageous if this thing went further, with all the other things we have to do.”
Other Republican senators were less than enthusiastic about possible impeachment proceedings.
“I’m not for going through another damn trial to be honest with you,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) told CNN on Monday.
Tuberville said he didn’t believe House Republicans had “enough time” to see an impeachment through, given that 2024 is an election year. He warned his colleagues: “You better have an ironclad case… Make sure you got what you need to have. Don’t be guessing. Don’t just be throwing mud.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) called the move “frustrating,” sounding resigned as she pointed out to The Hill that she hadn’t seen any actual evidence of impeachable offenses. “I’m going to default to the position that the House is going to do what the House is going to do, and we’ll have to react to that,” she said.
The mood was similarly tepid in the other congressional chamber. Even members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, the body to which McCarthy was widely seen as capitulating in announcing the inquiry, weren’t satisfied. Mere minutes after the speaker’s announcement, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) slammed McCarthy for not having gone far enough.
“This is a baby step following weeks of pressure from House conservatives to do more. We must move faster,” he said from the House floor. Gaetz also shoehorned in a now daily threat that he would begin the process of attempting to oust McCarthy if he was not brought into “immediate total compliance” with the caucus’ demands.
Among the senators who did express support for the inquiry were Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).
“It’s clear President Biden and his son have engaged in corruption,” Daines said, per Reuters. “I’ll let the House do its job, but I’ll be ready to be a juror if there’s an impeachment.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the only Republican to vote to convict Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial, voiced cautious approval for a probe into Biden’s activities as president.
“The fact that the White House has been singularly silent and has coddled Hunter Biden suggests that an inquiry is not inappropriate,” he said. “That’s very different from an impeachment. Actual impeachment would require the evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor. That has not been alleged.”
Democrats, on the other hand, roundly and predictably denounced the inquiry. The best reaction of the day undoubtedly came from Sen. John Fetterman, who wiggled his fingers and made spooky noises when asked about it.
“Oh my God, really?” he wailed, his hands on his temples. “Oh my gosh. Oh, it’s devastating. Ooooh, don’t do it, please don’t do it. Oh no, oh no.”