Status: 25/09/2023, 19:09 p.m.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, rejects the claim that this year's pace of appropriations is different than previous sessions. © Matt McClain/The Washington Post
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are struggling to find their way between impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden and the budget negotiations.
House Republicans have vowed to take a long, methodical approach to investigating President Biden for possible wrongdoing. "I want this to last a long time. That's what I really want," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said in a recent interview. "We're just going to go ahead and do our job," Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Thursday.
But there are voices from the ranks of the Republicans who claim that their leadership has focused too much on these investigations, losing focus on the Grants Committee's handling of the bills to fund the government. This has now led to the GOP of the House of Representatives having to take the blame if there is a government shutdown from next Sunday - unless it manages to use a quick legislative trick.
First formal "impeachment" hearing on Thursday
When the House Oversight Committee convenes Thursday for its first formal hearing on the impeachment investigation, the shadow of impending gridlock will block out any spotlight the GOP hopes to shine on Biden. "We've basically gotten so distracted by all the other shiny objects that we haven't really done our real job, which is to approve funds," Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) told reporters after leaving an emergency meeting of the GOP late Thursday.
It is not without a certain irony that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), blames his own members for the impending shutdown of the parliament by focusing on impeachment. After taking an extended, 46-day summer hiatus in late summer, McCarthy's first day back at the Capitol, September 12, turned into a tumult when he unilaterally announced that the Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Conditions Committees would launch an official impeachment investigation.
His supporters saw this move primarily as a ploy to assuage the fears of far-right lawmakers ahead of the September 30 deadline, when federal funding ends. These ideological fighters dismissed impeachment as something overdue and intensified their demands for cuts in government spending. Instead of focusing on impeachment, the far-right faction of 10 to 15 Republicans has instead paralyzed the House of Representatives and set in motion a convoluted strategy with little chance of success.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) says the GOP leadership has done a poor job of "all this juggling." © Elizabeth Frantz/The Washington Post
Mills, a rookie who was not previously one of the far-right troublemakers, declared, "I blame the leadership" because the whole summer has passed without this mess being resolved. "We had the time to do this. We've had the whole of August, we've had the whole of September," he said.
The spokesperson likes to defend his leadership style by allowing for an open process that allows for a variety of oversight investigations and laws. "People can actually have their say. There's not just one direction or one highway," McCarthy told reporters Tuesday morning.
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Inexperienced lawmakers make life difficult for Republicans
McCarthy's allies suggested in a briefing with reporters on Friday that the negotiation process with the other Republicans had taken so many months because so many newcomers had never been in the majority and had not understood how government funding worked. "This was a new concept for some members," said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who was McCarthy's chief negotiator on the debt and budget agreement with Biden administration officials earlier this year.
Still, the GOP's leaders in the House of Representatives have set a rather lackluster overall schedule and rhythm for the summer and early fall, considering that this funding showdown has always played a big role for McCarthy. In early January, the arch-conservatives forced him to vote 15 times and achieved many concessions on the allocation of funds before allowing him to become spokesman. After the agreement with Biden set a two-year framework for spending at the end of May, the House of Representatives seemed able to tackle the 12 spending bills.
Far-right lawmakers wreak havoc in the House of Representatives
But then the far-right rejected these expenses as too high and used the narrow four-vote margin to corner the House of Representatives by thwarting procedural votes. Instead of concluding these talks in early summer, House Republicans pounced on a series of disjointed distractions.
The final weeks of June were dominated by McCarthy's decision to force a no-confidence vote against Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-California) for leading the impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump in 2019. And Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) forced a vote on her motion for a resolution calling for Biden's immediate impeachment, leading to a wild, foul-mouthed war of words between Boebert and Greene over who should take the credit for advancing the impeachment process.
Republicans blocked this resolution and referred it to committees on June 23. On the same day, the House of Representatives went into a 17-day recess, which lasted longer than usual, to bridge the fourth of July. In mid to late July, the parliament was dominated by the debate on the annual Pentagon policy bill, for which the conservatives were able to obtain major concessions on issues of the social culture war. In the last week of July, the House of Representatives approved the normally uncontroversial funding plan for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction Projects.
11 days of meetings in two months – Is McCarthy still capable of acting?
However, in the face of right-wing objections, McCarthy withdrew consideration of the bill to fund the Department of Agriculture, which is also generally uncontroversial. As a result, 11 of the 12 bills to finance the government remained in limbo. The House of Representatives then adjourned into the long summer recess. In other words, from 24 June to 11 September, Parliament met for only 11 days. After returning to the Capitol this month, Republicans focused the first week on whether Biden should be impeached.
Mills believes that leadership has failed to plan for the wide range of issues at stake, allowing things like no-confidence votes and investigations to distract from the most basic tasks of governance. "Unfortunately, not everyone can walk and chew gum at the same time. So we get dragged into really important discussions about certain policy issues, or we get dragged into discussions about impeachment," Mills said in a follow-up interview.
Jordan, who chairs the committee that will specifically address allegations of preferential treatment of Biden by the Justice Department, dismissed the claim that this year's pace of handling budget funds is different than in previous sessions. One bill has already been passed, nine more have passed committee, and the Rules Committee met over the weekend to prepare for debate on four more next week and beyond. "That's a good thing, we just need to get the votes to get them into the chamber," Jordan said.
Shaky majority in favor of impeachment proceedings against Biden
Of course, in order to meet the recent demands of conservatives, Republicans will have to find around $60 billion in new cuts in these funding bills. All this drama with the probable "countdown clocks" in the news could overshadow the official launch of the impeachment inquiry on Thursday.
The leading Republicans have so far indicated that they will not move as quickly as their predecessors. In 1998, Republicans in the House of Representatives, along with 31 Democrats, voted to formally begin impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton on October 8, and less than two and a half months later they voted to impeach the president.
In 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated that impeachment proceedings were initiated on September 24, the entire House of Representatives formally voted to begin the proceedings on October 31, and President Trump was impeached in December.
Some Republicans are still reluctant to impeach Biden, believing that the evidence does not prove the president's involvement in his family's business, and at least one, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Calif.), called the charges completely baseless. So GOP investigators have to go slow and try to gather more evidence.
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"There are a lot of things we need answers to, and we need to get those answers before we take the next step. It's going to be a process," Representative Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a recent interview. Greene would like to see a comprehensive investigation into the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct beyond the initial focus of the investigation into the financial dealings of the president's family. "The second goal is to cast a wide net in all departments and agencies to find all the people who covered this up," she said.
The Democrats see this approach as the natural result of a failed investigation. "They obviously want to take as much time as possible to find evidence that doesn't exist," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD), the lead Democrat on the oversight committee. Raskin added, "They need to take their time to see if they can concoct any argument."
Mills said he supports impeachment and all other investigations into the Biden administration. He just thinks that his leadership has done a poor job of all the "juggling" needed to avoid things like a government shutdown.
A former member of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Mills learned the concept of "windows and mirrors" when it comes to leadership. "When things are done right, you look through the window and see everyone else who was involved," he said. "When something goes wrong, as a good leader, you look in the mirror because it's ultimately your own fault.
About the author
Paul Kane is the chief congressional correspondent and columnist for The Washington Post. His column on Congress, @PKCapitol, is published during the week and on Sundays. He has been working for Swiss Post since 2007.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by "Washingtonpost.com" on September 23, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.