The Republican-led House of Representatives may yet impeach President Biden.
But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had to intervene to halt a snap impeachment this week by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
“Privileged” resolutions are a special commodity in the House. They are used in only special circumstances pertaining to the Constitution. That includes discipline of Members or impeachment. Such resolutions head to the front of the legislative line. The House must entertain such privileged matters almost immediately.
Boebert grew tired of what she thought was dithering by House Republicans on potentially impeaching President Biden over the southern border. That’s to say nothing of questions many GOPers hold about the ethics of the President, alleged or perceived crimes and the misdeeds of Hunter Biden. But despite robust inquires into all of those matters by the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways & Means Committees, Boebert had enough. She would go it alone and try to impeach Mr. Biden with her own privileged resolution.
“I was tired of politicians telling us something that we wanted to hear back home, getting to where we send them and trust them to be our voice and doing something completely different. This isn’t a talking point for me. This is an action item,” said Boebert in an interview.
Any member may bring up a privileged resolution. But they’re usually the province of the minority party since they don’t control the floor. Still, Boebert and Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., recently deployed privileged resolutions to go around House leaders and force action on their pet initiatives.
Luna tried twice with a privileged resolution to censure Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. The first measure failed. But the second one succeeded.
This is ironic because Republicans long touted a return to “regular order” in their quest to run the House. In his effort to secure the Speakership, McCarthy promised that he wouldn’t just hand down bills from on high. He wanted legislation to gurgle up through subcommittees and committees before hitting the floor. Leaders wouldn’t drop legislation on lawmakers in the dead of night.
An attempt to punish a lawmaker with censure – the second most serious form of official discipline in the House – customarily goes through committee. The same with articles of impeachment. The Ethics Committee would usually spend months investigating the alleged misdeeds of a Member before sending a censure citation to the floor. Impeachment of the President could consume months of closed door depositions, public hearings and floor debate. That was the process for impeaching former President Trump in late 2019. However, the House was much more hasty in impeaching Mr. Trump the second time after the Capitol riot.
But nothing says a member can’t introduce a privileged resolution to censure a fellow lawmaker or even impeach the President without going through the additional machinations. If the House votes to censure or impeach, you are censured or impeached. The mechanics aren’t required.
Even if that’s the “regular order.” Or, the “regular order”
“Maybe we’re redefining regular order,” said Luna in an interview. “Maybe we’re redefining what the typical process would be and that Members have more of a voice.”
Allowing his rank-and-file to have a “voice” is key to McCarthy’s political success as Speaker. He promised to give Members more say in the legislative process. The Speaker certainly agreed with censuring his Golden State nemesis Schiff for his role in the Russia probe. And even though McCarthy is no fan of President Biden, he knows that impeachments of Presidents come at tremendous political cost.
As Speaker, McCarthy must protect the integrity of the institution, the Speakership and the seriousness of impeachment. That’s to say nothing of guarding vulnerable Republicans from battleground districts who look askance at impeachment.
Lots of Congressional Republicans hint at impeachment to keep them in the good graces of conservative voters back home. But they know that impeachments are rare, and they may never have to vote on such a proposal, despite the feisty rhetoric. So to Boebert, talk was cheap.
That’s why she circumvented the customary committee process for impeachment, depositing a privileged resolution on the floor without the typical volutions.
“Bringing up this privileged motion to impeach Joe Biden absolutely forces members to put their money where their mouth is. If most of the Republicans (governed) as they (campaigned), then we would be a lot better off,” said Boebert.
But Boebert’s approach failed to impress some of her GOP colleagues.
“We can’t turn impeachment into the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in the British Parliament,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn. “When we do that we cheapen what impeachment is. It’s supposed to be a tool of last resort. Not a first resort.”
Boebert failed to appear at a meeting of all House Republicans Wednesday morning to present her impeachment resolution and gain support for it.
“I don’t think that one minute of speaking time at (the Republican) Conference was going to persuade anyone,” said Boebert. “I don’t think that is something that took precedence for my busy schedule.”
For the record, nearly every House Republican also attends those same meetings and somehow finds a way to wedge those weekly conclaves into their schedules.
“I believe in team sports you should work together. And this was an individual who was undermining the team,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., about Boebert. “Impeachment shouldn’t be something that is frivolous and treated in that way.”
McCarthy needed to thread the needle on Boebert’s resolution. But he too was unimpressed with the gambit by the Colorado Republican.
“You just don’t flippantly put something on the floor,” said McCarthy. “You follow the investigation wherever it takes you.”
McCarthy then met with Boebert.
“I don’t think that my actions are flippant,” Boebert said afterward. “I believe they are very intentional.”
But McCarthy wasn’t going to let Boebert’s impeachment resolution on the floor. He also wasn’t going to expose vulnerable Republicans to a scenario where they voted to table the impeachment resolution and then caught flak from arch conservatives in their districts. However, McCarthy wanted to block Democrats from tabling the resolution, too.
So McCarthy crafted a special provision to handle Boebert’s impeachment resolution. The House would vote on a “rule” to send the impeachment measure to the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. How much those committees investigated is then up to them. But McCarthy’s plan made sure to keep Boebert’s resolution alive. And it simultaneously inoculated anti-impeachment Republican lawmakers so they couldn’t face criticism for dismissing Boebert’s effort.
In addition, lawmakers like Fitzpatrick and Bacon got their wishes, too. Committees could now continue to investigate the President – with the possibility of impeachment.
“The timeline of our investigation is pretty much in our heads,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn. “We kind of know the pathway.”
Boebert said she’d like to see the House impeach President Biden by the end of the year.
“If there’s ever a hesitation that the articles are not coming to the floor, then we’ll make sure that happens,” said Boebert, noting she’d dial up another privileged resolution.
“We have to be ready to vote for any number of fanciful ideas that the House Republican Conference comes up with,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. “They are trying to out-MAGA and out-extreme each other.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., intends to impeach Mr. Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Washington, DC, U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves. But on Wednesday afternoon. Greene and Boebert engaged in an animated conversation on the House floor. Greene accused Boebert of stealing her impeachment idea. It was reported Greene called Boebert “a little b*tch.”
“They had a discussion,” said McCarthy, trying to downplay the rhubarb between Greene and Boebert.
Yours truly pressed McCarthy on if the confrontation was truly a “discussion.”
“I think it’s healthy that people have discussions,” replied McCarthy.
When asked for her side of the story, Boebert simply walked away from a pack of reporters gathered on the Capitol steps.
“Thank you all so much. Have a great day,” said Boebert.