A quixotic push by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) to impeach President Biden was placed on the back burner Thursday. But even some Republican insiders fear the damage might already have been done.
Boebert, one of the fiercest among the GOP’s right-wing firebrands, surprised many of her colleagues by introducing an impeachment resolution earlier this week. The move caused disarray in the House Republican conference, and the furor was only defused with a deal to send the resolution for consideration by committees.
The move, passed in a 219-208 vote Thursday, places no obligation on the committees to do anything to advance Boebert’s proposal. But she is insistent that, if it becomes clear the gambit is solely about delay, she will bring up her resolution “every day for the rest of my time here in Congress.”
Meanwhile, more moderate Republicans are wincing at what they consider an unforced political error that will give Democrats ammunition to attack the GOP as extreme and out of touch.
Republican strategist Dan Judy described the move as “frankly stupid,” adding, “the party needs to be focused on the problems facing Americans rather than this sideshow.”
Most polls, to be sure, show American voters' main concerns are the economy and inflation, as well as a host of other matters barely related to the effort to impeach the president.
But that doesn’t mean there will be an end to impeachment efforts, given that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) has her own efforts to impeach not only Biden, but Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Matthew Graves, the U.S. district attorney for the District of Columbia.
Adding to this week’s spectacle, Boebert and Greene got into a heated verbal exchange on the House floor Wednesday. Several observers contended Greene called Boebert a “little bitch.” Greene also reportedly accused Boebert of copying her on impeachment.
Boebert, for her part, has shot back that she doesn’t want to get involved in “middle school” antics.
Democrats are agog at disputes like that one — but also convinced that the politics of the matter will play to their advantage.
Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh declared himself amazed at “the degree to which the Republicans will figure out a way to self-destruct.”
He argued the specific danger was that performative efforts such as a push to impeach Biden would turn off independent and moderate voters.
While he acknowledged such voters have become fewer as the United States has become more polarized, he contended that they "still are a decisive part of winning any general election. And it’s very, very clear that those moderate, swing voters are just not interested in all these Republican shenanigans.”
Some Republicans shoot back that Democrats twice impeached then-President Trump — and they note that, separate from those moves, some Democratic members made solo runs aimed at the same goal.
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) tried at least three times to impeach Trump, for example. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced five articles of impeachment against Trump in November 2017, before the 45th president had even rung up a full year in office.
But Democrats note that such measures died swiftly, and further contend that the MAGA wing of the GOP has a firmer grip on today’s Republican Party than the progressive left has on congressional Democrats.
They point not only to Boebert’s impeachment effort but to the mini-uprising that stalled normal business in the House recently, after hard-right members including Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) balked at issues including the compromises Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had made on spending in order to win a debt ceiling deal with Biden.
There is still the possibility that ultraconservative unhappiness over those compromises could result in a government shutdown closer to the end of the year.
“It’s not just the impeachment, but this whole pattern of things,” said Democratic strategist Robert Shrum.
He included allegations of “Deep State” malfeasance, as well as attacks even on some judges and investigators appointed by former Trump, as evidence of this pattern.
Shrum added that any government shutdown would be “catastrophic for the Republican Party.”
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), speaking in the House on Thursday, accused Republicans involved in bringing the impeachment resolution to the floor of “dishonoring this House and dishonoring themselves.”
According to The Associated Press, McGovern added that the House had "become a place where extreme, outlandish and nutty issues get debated passionately, and important ones not at all.”
Even some Republicans who are uneasy with Boebert’s actions argue that the political impact should not be exaggerated. They contend the episode might fade from voters’ minds fast enough.
But it’s notable that the effort was seen as causing severe discomfort for the 18 House Republicans who represent districts won by Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
And Boebert’s push also gives more fuel to the president’s argument about the supposed extremism of “ultra-MAGA Republicans” — a label that was effective during last year’s midterms.
Still, there seems no chance of Boebert backing down.
“Last Congress, I watched my impeachment articles collect dust in Pelosi’s office,” she tweeted Thursday afternoon. “This Congress, action had to be taken!”
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.