ESTRICH: Kevin McCarthy caves

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy caved to the far right of his party in giving the green light to an effort to impeach President Joe Biden, authorizing three House committees to begin investigations of Biden’s family finances. On Tuesday, the speaker told reporters gathered outside his office at the Capitol, “Today, I am directing our House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.”

In fact, Republicans have been digging into their finances for some time, justifying it as assisting in the work of legislating. The Oversight Committee examined more than 12,000 pages of subpoenaed bank records, and more than 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports as well as interviewing witnesses, including two of Hunter Biden’s former business associates, and found no evidence of any payments to the president.

Until now, McCarthy has taken the position, shared by many other House and Senate Republicans, that before undertaking an impeachment inquiry, the full House should vote, consistent with past practice, to move forward. But the full House is divided: Not everyone agrees with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz and the other leaders of the impeachment effort. Rep. Ken Buck, a conservative Republican, criticized Greene for tying impeachment to the government spending bill, calling her timeline “absurd,” and saying, sensibly enough, that “the time for impeachment is the time when there’s evidence linking President Biden — if there’s evidence linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn’t exist right now,” on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki.”

I agree with Ken Buck. What’s more, I agree with Sen. Marco Rubio, the very conservative Florida Republican, who argues that impeaching a sitting president “should generally be avoided for the interest of the country.”

“It can’t become routine … There are countries like Peru that routinely now impeach whoever the president is, and it’s become almost a national sport … My big fear remains that at some point you trivialize this, you make it routine. Suddenly it becomes a weapon or a tool routinely used by a political party against someone from the other party in power,” he said. It’s a measure of how far right McCarthy has gone that I find myself in agreement with Marco Rubio.

Of course, these same arguments were made by Republicans when it was the Democrats who were impeaching President Donald Trump, and by Democrats when it was Republicans who were impeaching President Bill Clinton. Is what’s good for the goose good for the gander? Maybe, but the analogy falls apart to the extent that Trump’s misdeeds have in fact led to indictment for high crimes, whereas in Clinton’s case, the failed impeachment effort led to Democrats picking up seats in the 1998 midterm election, which may be the closest analogue to this effort.

Indeed, even if the House Republicans were united, which they aren’t, impeachment doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate and could easily be viewed by voters as a waste of valuable time. According to Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Republican leadership team in the Senate, “It really comes to how do you prioritize your time? I don’t know of anybody who believes (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer will take it up and actually have a trial and convict a sitting president. … Members of the House don’t really care what I think. All I can tell you, it’s unlikely to be successful in the Senate. Rather than doing something they know is unlikely to end the way they would like, maybe they want to emphasize other things.”

Other things like the economy and the border, which voters do care about, and not inside politics, which is what is driving Kevin McCarthy further and further to the right, to the point that he may be driving his party out of the mainstream and into the hands of Democrats.