WASHINGTON (CN) — Any hope House Speaker Kevin McCarthy may have had of using an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to bring his right flank back under the Republican tent was dashed Tuesday afternoon, as members of the GOP’s radical voting bloc doubled down on their demands for party leadership.
Early Tuesday, McCarthy directed the House Committee on Oversight to begin a formal impeachment investigation, citing claims made to Republican lawmakers that the president had used the power of his office to help his son in various business dealings. The announcement comes as the speaker faces ratcheting pressure from his right-wing colleagues to follow through on several GOP policy priorities — impeachment included.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican party’s far-right voting bloc, have for months been outspoken critics of McCarthy’s leadership, blasting him for negotiating with the White House during the debt ceiling crisis of June and threatening to initiate proceedings to remove him as speaker of the House.
Now, with the end of the fiscal year baring down on Sept. 30, the Freedom Caucus has demanded that McCarthy refuse to negotiate stopgap funding measure to keep the government open through December without securing significant concessions from Democrats.
Some lawmakers, including many Democrats, have speculated that the speaker’s embrace of an impeachment inquiry is aimed at placating the GOP’s more radical voices. But, during a sweltering press conference on Capitol steps Tuesday afternoon, the Freedom Caucus signaled that an impeachment investigation wasn’t enough to send them packing.
“The impeachment inquiry is long overdue,” said Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, who chairs the Freedom Caucus. “But it has nothing to do with the debt, the deficit, the outrageous spending, and the inflation that’s crushing American families. Those are two separate issues, and they should be dealt with separately.”
Members of the voting bloc doubled down on their demands for any sort of budget deal, focusing largely on their opposition to a short-term budget patch without any conditions.
“The country gave House Republicans the majority to change the course of Congress,” said Georgia Representative Andrew Clyde. “Greenlighting a so-called clean, unqualified or blind [continuing resolution] is out of the question.”
Clyde added that such a clean stopgap budget would “endanger Speaker McCarthy’s leadership.”
Among the Freedom Caucus’s demands, the bloc has said that it will not support any continuing budget resolution that does not include language from a House-passed border security bill. A stopgap bill would also need to cut U.S. aid for Ukraine and end what Republicans call the “weaponization” of the Justice Department — altogether, provisions that are sure to be a bitter pill for Democrats.
As for the larger budget, lawmakers slammed what they positioned as reckless federal spending. The Freedom Caucus has demanded that the government’s 2024 budget drastically slash appropriations to 2022 levels.
“I will not continue to fund this government at war with the American people,” said Texas Congressman Chip Roy, railing on inflation, taxes and Covid-19 restrictions.
While none of the lawmakers present Tuesday directly threatened to initiate a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy if their demands went unmet, the Republican party leader was not spared criticism. North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop, who was one of the first lawmakers to publicly consider a McCarthy ouster during debt ceiling negotiations, again accused the speaker of blinking during that standoff with the White House.
“How does one who is leading anticipate in a divided government to move forward on policy issues critical to the American people unless there’s an opportunity to negotiate,” Bishop said. “The opportunity to negotiate on behalf of the American people arrives again right now, and leadership means seizing that opportunity.”
Although news of an impeachment inquiry didn’t force the Freedom Caucus to change course, members faced sharp questioning from members of the press. Caucus chair Scott Perry was incensed by one reporter who asked whether Congress had uncovered evidence to impeach President Biden, or whether the voting bloc had “bullied Speaker McCarthy for an act of political revenge.”
“This isn’t about revenge,” Perry retorted, citing bank account records and other documents House Republicans have held up as proof that the president was involved in his son’s business dealings. “That’s what we have.”
Meanwhile, time is running out for Congress to work out some sort of spending plan. Both the House and Senate have until the end of the month to pass a dozen individual budget bills — but that prospect is dimming by the day. If lawmakers choose instead to pursue a continuing resolution, the Freedom Caucus is sure to prove a hurdle for bipartisan consensus.Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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