© 2024 KGOU
Oklahoma sunset
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Swing district Republicans in risky waters over Biden impeachment inquiry

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

For months, House Republicans were split on whether to pursue impeachment against President Biden. Some of the most outspoken GOP opponents of impeachment came from the most competitive House districts that could decide control of the House in 2024. But after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced an impeachment inquiry was happening, many of these lawmakers said they support the probe. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh reports.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Nebraska Republican Don Bacon didn't think the House needed to launch an impeachment inquiry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DON BACON: I don't want to get in the spot where we're doing impeachments every president. It's not what the founders wanted. It's not good for our country.

WALSH: President Biden won in his Omaha district in 2020, but Bacon outperformed then-President Trump to win reelection. The former Air Force general publicly opposed impeachment. But once the speaker announced an inquiry, he said he would follow his leader.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BACON: I'm in the military. I make - I give my recommendations, and I move on.

WALSH: Impeachments used to be rare. But in his seven years in Congress, Bacon says he could be involved in three impeachments.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BACON: I'm going to be in this. It could be my third impeachment out of five in our country - in the history of our country. I don't think that's a good precedent - not a good trend.

WALSH: California Congressman John Duarte also represents a purple district. He's quick to point out that the House is now engaged in an impeachment inquiry, not impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN DUARTE: It kind of lets us become a grand jury with subpoena power.

WALSH: The inquiry distinction allows McCarthy to thread a needle. Hard-line Republicans are happy the process has started, while members in swing districts, like Bacon and Duarte, can defend against a tax of a rush to judgment. Duarte's rural Central Valley district includes a lot of farmers worried about water issues. The impeachment is low down on the list he hears about, but he says...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUARTE: We simply have to do this. You know, we need to get to the bottom of it. There's enough circumstantial evidence to warrant the inquiry.

WALSH: His colleague, Mike Garcia, was elected from another California district rated as a toss-up seat heading into the 2024 election. Garcia says allegations about money the president's son, Hunter, received from foreign business interests being deposited into shell companies are enough of a reason for the inquiry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE GARCIA: There's smoke there, right? So we have a requirement to go investigate that to see if there's actually fire there.

WALSH: But the three committees who have been investigating the president and his family for months have not found any direct link between the president's son's business income and the president. Garcia pushes back at the idea that investigating the president without first showing that link is a bad idea politically.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARCIA: There seems to be this national narrative that people in swing districts don't want accountability and truth, right? That's not the case. There's a reason why I still win in a district that Biden won in 13%.

WALSH: The head of the House Republicans' campaign arm, Richard Hudson, who has been arguing impeachment wasn't a top-tier issue with voters, agrees now it's OK to move ahead with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD HUDSON: Well, I think people want to know the facts. I think people want transparency and accountability from their government. That's what we're giving them.

WALSH: Democrats are targeting Marc Molinaro's district in upstate New York. He backs the inquiry and says New York voters care about allegations of corruption.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARC MOLINARO: I think, at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to identify whether or not these acts of impropriety rise to the level of actual corruption.

WALSH: And Speaker McCarthy insists the House is just engaged in fact-finding.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: An impeachment inquiry is not impeachment. So what impeachment inquiry is to do is to get answers to questions.

WALSH: But it tests whether voters will care about the difference. Now that the speaker has public support from these most vulnerable members, the House could be getting closer to voting to impeach the president.

Deirdre Walsh, NPR News, the Capitol.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUN B AND STATIK SELETAH SONG, "SUPERSTARR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.