Briefing

Will Republicans impeach Biden?

Before Trump became president, there were two presidential impeachments in all of American history

Republicans — some of them anyway — are champing at the bit to impeach President Biden.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said as much Sunday morning on NBC's Meet the Press: "I believe there's pressure on the Republicans to put that forward and have that vote," she told Chuck Todd. "I think that's what some folks are considering." She added: "If that happens, I do believe it's divisive."

Before Donald Trump became president, there were two presidential impeachments in all of American history. Trump was impeached twice, of course — once at the end of 2019, the other after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Now, if the GOP takes control of Congress during this year's midterms elections, there is a chance of three impeachments in under four years. Why is there the possibility of a Joe Biden impeachment? Here's everything you need to know:

Why would Republicans impeach Biden?

The Constitution says that presidents "shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." So surely Biden has done something that's arguably a crime or misdemeanor, right? Well…

During Mace's interview with Todd on Sunday, the topic of why Biden might be impeached never came up. (Todd was raked over the social media coals for that omission.) Truthfully, the answer is probably something like: "Because." Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tried introducing articles of impeachment against Biden  — for "abuse of power"the day after he was inaugurated. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested that executive branch impeachments were coming for Biden's White House soon after Trump was acquitted on the second impeachment: "We've opened Pandora's Box here, and I'm sad for the country."

It's likely Republicans would find a reason. The right's obsession with the president's son, Hunter, and his legal travails offers one likely answer. Disputes over immigration and border enforcement could be another reason. But again, the fact that Mace and Todd talked about impeachment without talking about "why" suggests that the cause is secondary.

Would they be able to get a conviction? 

Probably not. Everything hinges on the forthcoming midterm elections. As you probably know by now — because, again, we've had two impeachments in recent years — the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict. And the math isn't really there. 

Right now, Republicans have 50 seats in the Senate, and they need to win just one more to win control over the chamber in November. That might happen. But will they pick up 17 seats? That's highly improbable: Of the 35 seats up for election this fall, only 14 are currently in Dem hands — and just two, involving Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada — are listed by the influential Cook Political Report as "toss up" races that Republicans have a decent (though by no means overwhelming) chance to win. Assuming that an impeachment trial would break down along party lines, it's difficult to see how Republicans would have the numbers to kick Biden out of the White House.  

So what's the point, then? 

Two reasons.

One is that it's natural for an opposition party that wins back some measure of governing power to start to investigate a White House held by the opposite party. Democrats have done it in the past — remember that Trump's first impeachment didn't happen until Dems won the House in the 2018 midterm elections — and Republicans are already deep into planning their efforts. The party is already "planning to bombard Joe Biden's administration with investigations next year," Politico reported in July, with proposed inquiries into Hunter Biden's "business dealings, Afghanistan, the origins of the coronavirus, inflation causes, and the U.S.-Mexico border."

Second, there's the politics: The GOP base really, really wants Biden impeached. One poll taken in May shows that impeaching Biden would be unpopular with the broad American electorate — but very popular with Republican voters. "While just over one-third of the poll's 1,000 respondents (34 percent) say that a GOP-controlled House should impeach Biden, 68 percent of Republicans and Trump voters and 66 percent of conservatives all would like to see the President charged by Congress for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," the University of Massachusetts Amherst reported. That may be all the reason elected Republicans need to proceed. 

How likely is this whole thing, really?

Again, it depends on whether the GOP manages to win the House of Representatives in November. If that's the case, it seems increasingly likely we'll see an impeachment. "With a number of Republican members of Congress calling to impeach President Biden, the chorus will likely grow louder if and when the Republican Party takes control of the U.S. House in 2022," said Tatishe Nteta, who directed the UMass Amherst poll. 

One outgoing NeverTrump Republican thinks this is a likely scenario. "They're going to demand an impeachment vote on President Biden every week," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on a recent podcast. And if that's right, Nancy Mace is probably right about one thing: It will be very divisive. 

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