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How likely is it that Biden will be impeached if the GOP retakes the House?

Trump supporters in Congress face uphill battle even if GOP sees victories in November

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 27 September 2022 11:04 BST
Jen Psaki says if midterms are referendum on Biden, democrats will lose
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When President Joe Biden returns to work in Washington next January, he could be facing a starkly different reality on Capitol Hill.

Buoyed by Mr Biden’s low approval ratings, Republicans are mounting bids to take control of both the House and Senate from their Democratic rivals. Winning a majority in one or both chambers would be a massive impediment to passing further legislation meant to enact Mr Biden’s political agenda, and could have further-reaching consequences for the White House as well.

As the White House prepares for a potentially GOP-controlled Congress, the possibility of one major headache for the administration (or Republicans themselves, depending on how one views the chances of political fallout) has been floated: Impeachment.

The origin of this potentiality, as with so many of Mr Biden’s problems, lies with Donald Trump. His allies in Congress are frothing at the idea that they will have the chance to enact revenge on Democrats for two unsuccessful impeachment efforts against the former president, including the effort in 2021 to hold him accountable for the January 6 attack on Congress. There’s also the fact that Mr Trump continues to demand, from his exile kingdom of Mar-a-Lago, that he be “reinstated” as president of the United States.

It’s a bold demand, unfounded in any constitutional basis, that nevertheless has his most rabid fans yearning for Mr Biden to be hauled out of the White House, even if he were only to be replaced by Kamala Harris.

With that political reality in mind, how likely is it that Joe Biden will actually get the boot from a GOP Congress next year?

The House

Under the US Constitution, any impeachment effort begins in the lower chamber of Congress. Some Republicans in this chamber have already attempted to get the ball rolling: Marjorie Taylor Greene in recent weeks filed her own article of impeachment against Mr Biden, accusing him of enabling “high crimes and misdemeanors” through his son’s past work in Ukraine.

The status of that article shows the first hurdle for Republicans: Taking the lower chamber. The party is well-positioned to do so, but has seen its advantage in polling across the country slip throughout 2022 as wave after wave of revelations regarding the actions of House GOPers during the January 6 attack have made their way into headlines and other damaging political events — like the overturning of Roe vs Wade — have similarly chipped away at Republicans’ advantages.

Then there’s the question of leadership, and the GOP caucus at large. Republicans have yet to embrace the idea of impeachment as a caucus, with leadership remaining tight-lipped on plans for the new year and giving no hints as to whether an attempt to remove Mr Biden is on the agenda.

Some of the most revealing comments to that end were made this weekend by Rep Nancy Mace, a rank-and-file Republican who nevertheless has ties to Republican establishment figures including Nikki Haley, who endorsed her primary campaign against a Trump-backed opponent. Ms Mace told NBC’s Chuck Todd that while there is “pressure” for Republicans to pursue impeachment, her focus remains on “waste, fraud and abuse” — more typical issues that lead to politically-charged congressional investigations, but rarely more.

There’s no guarantee that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will support efforts to impeach Mr Biden — he has yet to even suggest an issue that would rise to merit such a consequence. So Ms Greene and her allies have a long way to go to see their legislation gain traction.

The Senate

Were an article (or articles) of impeachment to pass the House, Mr Biden would technically be “impeached” — though his path to actually facing consequences would still be long and uncertain.

Under the Constitution, a president is only removed from office if they are convicted during a trial held by the US Senate on the articles of impeachment brought forth by the House. This is the hurdle that vexed Democrats twice and resulted in Mr Trump escaping ramifications for either January 6 or his 2020 efforts to persuade Ukraine’s president to help him smear Joe Biden.

To remove a president from office, the votes of two-thirds of the Senate are needed. This near-impossible standard would almost certainly doom any GOP-led impeachment effort, which would likely be openly opposed by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, and even if supported by the entire Republican caucus would require more than a dozen Democratic votes to pass.

The likelihood of Republicans picking up that many seats in November is nonexistent — as it stands, Democrats could even come away from this year’s midterm elections with a stronger Senate majority.

While Mr Biden can rest easy knowing that he won’t be kicked out of the White House, it remains unclear whether anything else from his legislative agenda will make it to his desk before he returns to the campaign trail in 2024.

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