In the wake of the evacuation disaster and news that President Biden tried to get former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to play ball in creating a politically appealing mythos, the calls for impeachment came in fast and furious. However, the cold, bracing water of numerical reality is beginning to hit home for those lawmakers who sought to apply the sauce of the goose to the Democrat gander.
Since the Afghanistan evacuation turned from a bad situation to a lethal one, calls for action from the GOP have been steady and damning. “I think it’s dereliction of duty to leave hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines, turn them into hostages, to abandon thousands of Afghans who fought honorably along our side, to create conditions for another 9/11 that are now through the roof,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Sunday. And last week, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) filed three articles of impeachment.
Yet these calls are – due to the congressional balance – likely going nowhere.
A Numbers Game
At an event in his home state Kentucky on September 1, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) was asked whether the president’s recent actions warranted impeachment. The lawmaker responded:
“The president is not going to be removed from office with a Democratic House and a narrowly Democratic Senate. That’s not going to happen.
“I think the way these behaviors get adjusted in this country is at the ballot box … There isn’t going to be an impeachment.”
How McConnell’s sobering assessment will go down with the Republican Party troops remains to be seen. Whether the party faithful approves or not, the Kentucky senator has highlighted a worrying truth: Impeachment has become a political weapon for the majority party.
With a 220-212 majority in the House – and the sheer unlikelihood of any Democrats being willing to cross the aisle – there is precisely zero chance of getting the required votes. And if, in some unlikely scenario, the House did impeach, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote in the Senate – a self-serving move that may even be too far for the politician who openly seeks an even higher office.
Grounds for Impeachment?
At particular issue is the July 23 phone call between the two leaders in which Biden tried to convince Ghani to create a public perception that all was going well in the belabored nation. “And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture,” the U.S. president implored.
This attempted quid pro quo may or may not have been instigated for Biden’s own personal benefit, but as former President Donald Trump discovered in his 2019 impeachment, the line between benefit to the country and benefit to self is not a clearly delineated one.
A Final Gamble
No party is willing to voluntarily give up its crucial power position, regardless of facts or feelings. So, where does this leave Republicans in the hunt to impeach Joe Biden? As McConnell hints, behaviors get adjusted at the ballot box. And that seems to be the game plan moving forward.
Biden’s actions over the Afghan withdrawal, the phone call to former President Ghani, and the ever-present border crisis will be poker chips on the table of the 2022 midterms. If the GOP chooses to campaign on the promise of impeaching a president whose polling numbers are firmly in negative territory, it may be a winning formula for success. Coupled with the historically significant swing that usually takes place during midterm elections, the balance of power could shift. And then, for President Joe Biden, all bets are off.