House Republicans are set to face two major — and politically polarizing — issues when they return to Washington next week.
September was always poised to be a busy stretch on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers staring down an end-of-month deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown. But Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) announcement the House could open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden as soon as September has kicked that hectic outlook into overdrive.
Those two efforts are slated to come to a head next week, when McCarthy and House Republicans will have 11 legislative days to keep the government’s lights on and come to some sort of consensus on a potential impeachment inquiry — a heavy lift for a conference that has little time and large disagreements on both matters.
In public, GOP lawmakers are brushing off any concerns about taking on both ventures in September. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a 22-year veteran in the House, said different lawmakers focus on different undertakings, allowing all of them to move forward at the same time.
“We do a lot of things simultaneously, that’s why we break into committees,” Issa told reporters in the Capitol last week. “There needs to be, and already is, a number of inquiries related to Hunter Biden. There also is a myriad of legislation, including much of mine. And at the same time, you know, we all come to the floor to fund the government.”
“We can do all of them,” he continued.
And Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said while 11 legislative days may be little time to complete government funding, Republicans have a duty to be a check on the White House.
“Certainly, you know, there’s challenges to everything that we’re trying to do from the appropriations spending standpoint; we are, you know, struggling with 11 or so legislative days that remain between now and Sept. 30,” Good told The Hill in an interview.
“However, we need to do the right thing by the American people, and I think we need to pass fiscally responsible appropriations bills, and we also need to hold the president accountable for this alleged wrongdoing as it relates to the Biden family in addition to his intentional, purposeful, blatant facilitation of the border invasion,” he added.
Logistically speaking, however, addressing both matters over the few legislative days in September will be tough, requiring political maneuvering by McCarthy with conservatives pushing for steeper spending cuts and moderates wary of opening an impeachment inquiry.
At least one GOP lawmaker sees the two matters as contingent on one another, upping the pressure on McCarthy as he walks a tightrope to appease all ends of his conference while also keeping the government running.
“I’ve already decided: I will not vote to fund the government unless we have passed an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) announced at a town hall last week.
The White House, for its part, slammed Greene’s assessment.
“The House Republicans responsible for keeping the government open already made a promise to the American public about government funding, and it would be a shame for them to break their word and fail the country because they caved to the hardcore fringe of their party in prioritizing a baseless impeachment stunt over high stakes needs Americans care about deeply — like fighting fentanyl trafficking, protecting our national security, and funding FEMA,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote in a statement.
McCarthy said he wants to pass a short-term spending bill to kick the government funding deadline later in the year, a move that would buy lawmakers more time to hash out their differences on the full slate of appropriations bills. The House has passed only one of its 12 funding measures, while the Senate has approved none.
Conservatives, however, are making noise about a potential continuing resolution: The House Freedom Caucus, made of roughly three dozen members, put out an official position last month that said it will not support a stopgap funding bill unless it includes language to address the situation at the southern border, “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and “woke policies” at the Pentagon.
With the slim GOP majority in the House, united opposition from the conservative group could tank a stopgap bill unless some Democrats cross the aisle and support the measure, a possibility that will depend on the contents of the legislation. And, across the Capitol, any Freedom Caucus demands would likely be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“It’s a pretty big mess,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of the government funding negotiations during a press gaggle in Kentucky last week.
McCarthy last month said the House could launch such an impeachment inquiry as soon as September, but some moderates are not ready to take the step. Constitutionally speaking, the House does not need to stage a vote to open an impeachment inquiry — which would require majority support — though the chamber did in 2019 when House Democrats launched such an investigation into then-President Trump.
Despite reporting from CNN indicating McCarthy was considering skipping a vote, the Speaker told Breitbart News on Friday the chamber would hold a vote should the conference decide to launch an impeachment inquiry.
“To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives,” McCarthy told the outlet. “That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
But asked last month whether he has the votes to launch an inquiry, McCarthy told Fox News “when we go back, we’ll discuss this.”
McCarthy has sought to tie the two matters together in what could be perceived as an attempt to allay conservative concerns on spending by connecting the process to the conference’s investigations. The Speaker argued a government shutdown would stymie congressional investigations — including the probe into the Biden family business dealings, which could become an impeachment inquiry in the coming weeks.
“I would actually like to have a short-term CR, only to make our arguments stronger, because, Maria, if we shut down, all the government shuts it down, investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” last month with host Maria Bartiromo, referring to a continuing resolution.
In that same interview, McCarthy called an impeachment inquiry “a natural step forward.”
But some conservatives holding the line on slashing government spending are scoffing at that evaluation, vowing they will not be drawn away from their spending cuts mission at the sight of an impeachment inquiry.
“We are not going to be distracted by a shiny object saying ‘if you don’t get this continuing resolution passed we won’t be able to pursue the impeachment inquiry,’ that’s nonsense,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) said on Fox Business last month. “Let us go back to Washington, do our work, and leadership needs to do their work and that is to press to make sure the appropriations bills are brought forth.”
Emily Brooks contributed.