WASHINGTON (AP) — Interest in impeaching President Joe BidenHard-right House Republicans forced a vote on Thursday that sent the matter to congressional committees, clearly proving a challenge to Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The majority is the controlling face of the party.
A single legislator, Rep. The ability of Rep. Lauren Bobert, R-Colo., to push through an impeachment resolution caught Republicans off guard this week with unwritten action. Many saw this as a political distraction from other priorities.
The action accuses Biden of “numerous crimes and misdemeanors” in connection with his handling of the US border with Mexico.
Bobert, backed by his allies, a lone lawmaker in the 435-member House, showed how the chamber’s rules could be used to force a snap vote on such a grave constitutional matter. A 219-208 party-line vote sent the impeachment to committees for possible consideration like the rest of the bill.
“The council is taking historic action,” Boebert said during the debate, though the committees are under no obligation to act.
The episode underscored the stranglehold the House conservative side exerted over McCarthy for several days. It empowers a small group of Republicans to use rare tactics to exert power over its majority, albeit without rewards.
Conservatives are still gearing up for such actions: The process Boebert used to force the issue was another hard-right conservative, Rep. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., was sent Wednesday to force a separate vote to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff Regarding his investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
“There will be no end to this,” Schiff told The Associated Press and others in the Capitol Wednesday amid a no-confidence vote.
“Kevin McCarthy has no control over his conference,” Schiff said. “Fierce competition now drives the House of Representatives, and it certainly does terrible damage to the institution.”
During Thursday’s debate, Republicans were repeatedly admonished to tone down their comments.
Democrats have argued that the case against Biden mocks the seriousness of the impeachment and is an attempt to distract from twice-impeached Donald Trump, the former GOP leader now accused of hoarding classified documents under the Espionage Act.
“Today they dishonor this House and dishonor themselves by bringing this ridiculous impeachment resolution to the floor,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, who Trump recommended his allies push for it.
“This body has become a place where serious, exotic and nuanced issues are discussed passionately, and not as important,” McGovern said. “In short, the Republican Party is a joke.”
The vote ended McCarthy’s days of maneuvering to quell an uproar within his party over a roll call that was not taken by many.
A snap vote to impeach Biden would have been politically difficult for GOP lawmakers and an embarrassing scenario for McCarthy, splitting his party.. In a private meeting on Wednesday, McCarthy encouraged lawmakers to consider the traditional process of bringing forward such a resulting piece of legislation.
Ultimately, McCarthy negotiated with Bobert and sent the Biden impeachment resolution to the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees for reconsideration.
“I think it’s best for everybody,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.
But conservatives vowed more such votes.
“We’re just getting started,” said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, an influential member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Conservatives are lining up other such votes — to fire Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for example, and to censure Democratic Rep. Benny Thompson, who chaired the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Part of their effort is to divert control of the House from traditional centers of power, including the Speaker’s office.
“This is what we’ve been talking about,” said Rep. Matt Gates of Florida, a leader of conservative efforts to block McCarthy from becoming speaker. They were brokers who had more say in the House process.
Boebert said he would bring his resolution back to the floor “every day for the rest of my time here in Congress” to force a House vote on Biden’s impeachment if the committees move slowly.
Rank-and-file Republicans were furious at being forced to vote on a resolution to impeach Biden. They resented a lawmaker jumping the line of priorities.
In a fiery exchange heard on the House floor, hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green slams Bobert for taking the Biden charge on herself. Green has his own articles of impeachment against the president.
Greene later confirmed the exchange and said of Bobert, “She has a great talent and skill that most people here don’t like her.”
Bobert declined to comment on the conversation, saying only that it was “not middle school.”
“I want the anger directed at Ms. Bobert to be directed at the president and his policies,” said Rep. R-Va., a member of the Independent Caucus. Bob Good said.
Getz noted that when Democrats controlled the House, impeachment efforts by renegade lawmakers failed and the former president was eventually impeached before a majority supported the effort.
“It helped the Democrats build momentum, so this could be our version,” Gates said.
Trump has been impeached twice — on corruption and obstruction charges for withholding military aid to Ukraine while seeking political dirt on Biden, and later on Jan. 6, 2021, for inciting a riot in the Capitol that tried to overturn Biden’s election. Both times Trump was acquitted by the Senate.
Associated Press writers Farnoosh Amiri and Stephen Groves contributed to this report.