Republicans are sniffing the air and sense they’re smelling victory in the November congressional mid-term elections. The fumes are intoxicating and plans are afoot not for a chance to govern, but to seek revenge. The Democrats came in last year with ambitious plans to repair and reform voting rights, infrastructure, the environment, COVID-19 – testing and vaccination, racial justice, health care and tax reform.
Republicans, who unanimously opposed virtually everything, have been outlining their agenda. It’s the 3-I’s: impeach, investigate and indict.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) predicted Republicans would move quickly to impeach President Joe Biden “whether it’s justified or not,” The Washington Post reported. He had no specific charges in mind, only revenge for Democrats impeaching Donald Trump for blackmailing the president of Ukraine and for inciting the January 6 insurrection.
Without waiting, several members of the House Republicans’ lunatic fringe – Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Brian Babin, Randy Weber, Andy Biggs, Bob Gibbs – have already filed articles of impeachment. Greene, of Jewish space laser infamy, filed her articles the day after Biden’s inauguration.
Right out of the starting gate, Republicans will abolish the January 6 investigation committee, possibly declaring that day a celebration of Legitimate Political Discourse. Look for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), who is raising money selling mugs showing him giving a fist pump salute to the attacking mob, to lead Republicans in declaring the 2020 election was stolen and Donald Trump the rightfully elected president.
If they come to power, Republicans will bring long enemies lists.
GOP senators, notably Roger Marshall of Kansas, are setting their sights on Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci, who Fauci called “misinformed” and a “moron,” and Rand Paul of Kentucky who the doctor told “you do not know what you are talking about.”
If Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is reelected, don’t be surprised if he tries to resurrect hearings on Benghazi, Hunter Biden’s laptop and Hillary Clinton’s server. Asked what in the Biden administration he’d like to investigate, he told The Hill “everything.” Iowa’s Chuck Grassley is also talking of targeting Hunter Biden.
Pressing a long-standing grudge, Paul said he plans to go after Fauci to investigate, subpoena and fire the renowned immunologist and presidential advisor. The Kentucky senator is in line to chair the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee if Republicans win back the Senate.
The big circus will be in the House Judiciary Committee, where Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan could become chairman. He also has vowed to go after Fauci, accusing him of concealing information about the origins of COVID-19. There’s much more. Judiciary has jurisdiction in impeachment cases.
In a Fox News interview last month, Jordan, a Trump acolyte, said the disgraced former president was right on target when, through a spokesperson, he said that anyone spying on his campaign should be prosecuted and face the death penalty. That could mean turning hearings into show trials à la Joe McCarthy.
Democrats have slim majorities in both chambers going into an election that historically sees the president’s party lose seats. Much could change between now and November. Biden’s poll numbers are still underwater, though not to Trump depths, and they are slowly starting to climb. Working against Democrats are polls showing large numbers of Americans unhappy with the direction the country is going. Inflation and feeling COVID-19 fatigue.
A Republican takeover of the House will give a boost to the party’s most extreme elements if they survive their own reelection.
GREENE AND Paul Gosar, who many consider white supremacists and antisemites, have been promised by party leader Kevin McCarthy to get back committee assignments stripped by Democrats for their violent rhetorical attacks on colleagues and others.
The spineless McCarthy has opposed any action to discipline the pair who often echo Trump’s rabid rhetoric and calls for revenge. They could even become subcommittee chairs, taking their circus performances to the center ring. In further payback, McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker in a GOP House, said he will remove Rep. Adam Schiff from the Intelligence Committee, which he now chairs. Schiff’s sin: He led the first Trump impeachment.
Also on McCarthy’s hit list is Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who he wants removed for antisemitic comments for which she later unequivocally apologized. How he is apparently untroubled by similar talk from Green, Gosar, Trump and even himself.
Over in the Senate, Republicans are waiting for Trump to announce whether he’s running again, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t begun their campaign for 2024 or 2028.
Cruz thinks that by coming in second for the 2016 GOP nomination, he’s the heir apparent. He and the fist-pumping Hawley were the main leaders in the Senate opposing the certification of Biden’s election. Other senators in the running include Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Beyond the Senate, there’s also a long list of wannabes.
Chairmanships and high-profile investigations will give them headline-grabbing platforms to push their national ambitions.
Look for Republican hearings on Ukraine. Many, like McCarthy, who in 2020 defended Trump’s extortion and said withholding aid “was the rightful thing to do,” are already attacking Biden for not having “provided(d) weapons earlier.” Last week, 31 Republican senators voted against $13.6 billion in new military aid for Ukraine and promptly attacked Biden for not doing more to help that country defend itself.
The culture wars, long a vehicle for deflection from serious policy discussions, can be expected to heat up in a GOP Congress. There’s already talk of cutting or eliminating free school lunches, imposing restrictions on teaching about race and gender, removing home rule for the District of Columbia, repealing Obamacare, privatizing Social Security and exploiting mineral and lumber resources in the national parks, among other longstanding Republican goals. Many will not pass Biden’s veto pen but will be issues for the next campaign.
Some outrageous extremists who are seeking to enter the congressional fray could influence the party’s direction in the 118th Congress that convenes next January 3.
One is Josh Mandel, who is running for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio to succeed the retiring more moderate Rob Portman. Mandel is running to the right of Trump in pursuit of the former president’s endorsement. He is Jewish, declares himself a defender of Judeo-Christian culture and calls church and state separation a myth. He also wants to “shut down government schools and put schools in churches and synagogues.”
Mandel is one of hundreds of candidates groveling for the blessing of the exiled prince of Mar al Lago. Trump will declare personal victory in every primary and election that his endorsees win, especially if they beat incumbents who offended him. That could give him great influence on Capitol Hill over the next two years and into the 2024 election. And he will use it unsparingly.
“Nothing less is at stake than our democracy” in this election, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. And that may be an understatement.
The writer is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).