Skip to content

Impeach Biden or investigate Trump? Voters have a choice to make

That’s what the midterms are all about

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seen here in 2021, have very different visions of how they would run the House next year, writes Shapiro.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seen here in 2021, have very different visions of how they would run the House next year, writes Shapiro. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

On election night as the network anchors vamp waiting for meaningful returns, they inevitably will highlight the results from national exit polls about voter preferences on the issues that supposedly will be deciding control of Congress. 

Although we don’t yet have the precise partisan breakdowns, it is a safe bet that the Republicans will prevail on inflation, crime and immigration. And the Democrats will almost certainly be favored by those who care about abortion, climate change and gun violence. 

Now jump forward a bit and imagine what Congress — no matter who prevails in November — will do to solve these six pressing problems.

You got it: They will shout, posture, object, demonize, fulminate, rant, threaten and bellow. On a rare constructive day, they will pass symbolic legislation that they know will either die with a Senate filibuster or be vetoed by Joe Biden.

In reality, most major national problems defy easy legislative fixes, even if the next Congress (ha!) could miraculously achieve bipartisan comity.

Inflation is primarily an international problem with its roots in the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and bottlenecks in global supply chains.  

The upsurge in crime must mostly be tackled on the local and state level. In all likelihood, the pandemic and its after-effects have played a far greater causative role than any changes in bail laws or police staffing. 

Immigration has stymied presidents and Congresses for three decades. Simple-minded solutions (remember Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful wall”?) will not break a legislative impasse that dates back to the Bill Clinton years.

Abortion is the rare issue where there actually is a congressional solution — passing legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. But that requires Democrats not only to hold the House, but also to pick up the two Senate seats needed to end the filibuster.

While climate change remains a pressing issue for the Democratic base, Biden has already crammed most of his achievable legislation in this area into the deceptively named Inflation Reduction Act. 

A gun-toting Supreme Court and a Republican Party beholden to the NRA all but guarantee that the only thing substantive that the next Congress could offer to the families of future victims of gun violence are “thoughts and prayers.” 

Let me stress that I am not suggesting there is a false equivalence between the two parties in Congress. 

In truth, the Democrats, who have displayed uncharacteristic self-discipline, are a responsible governing party. And the Republicans have gone so far off the deep end in their Trumpist zeal that the Newt Gingrich era almost seems like the Athens of Pericles.

I am not suggesting that 2022 is shaping up to be another “Seinfeld” campaign — an election about nothing. 

The issues on the congressional ballot this year are momentous. But, for the most part, they are not what is being discussed by the candidates, highlighted in voice-of-doom TV ads and emphasized by the media.  

To oversimplify a bit, the choice on the ballot in November — especially for the House — comes down to whether voters want to impeach Joe Biden or complete the investigation into Trump’s complicity in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

If the Republicans win back the House, they have made little secret of their zeal to put Biden in the dock. Imagine a hang-him-high impeachment hearing featuring the intemperate Jim Jordan of Ohio as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. 

The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that Biden is guilty of in this wackadoodle GOP mindset include being the caring father of drug-addicted Hunter Biden; having the temerity to honestly defeat Trump in the 2020 election; and finding the nerve to govern as a Democratic president. 

Yes, it sounds silly. But by every indication, with fanatics like Marjorie Taylor Greene suddenly key players, a House majority under Kevin McCarthy would be all about stunts and disruption.

In contrast, the recent public hearing of the Jan. 6 committee that climaxed with subpoenaing Trump seemed like the swan song of an inquiry that came close to putting the pieces together but still has holes in the puzzle. 

The widespread expectation is that the Justice Department and grand juries in Georgia and elsewhere will pick up the intriguing pieces of the Trump investigation. 

But the legal system is designed to determine guilt or innocence. In contrast, the Jan. 6 committee was after something more important and elusive — the truth about what occurred on the worst day for American democracy since the Civil War. 

Ideally, if the Democrats somehow keep the House, the congressional inquiry can continue in some form, albeit without Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who will not be returning to Congress. 

There are other issues on the 2022 ballot, as well. If the Republicans take back the Senate, will Mitch McConnell allow any federal judge to be confirmed during the final two years of Biden’s term of office?

Voters in November will also get to weigh in on the stability of the U.S. financial system. 

House Republicans — whose behavior seems modeled after a progressive preschool — appear to be determined to use the necessary 2023 debt ceiling legislation as a cudgel to eviscerate government spending and maybe even go after Medicare and Social Security. 

Debt ceiling stunts are always dangerous, but the risk is particularly high at a moment when the world is facing the specter of recession. The difference this time around is that many House Republicans fail to understand the distinction between gimmickry and governing.

It has long been easy to portray Congress as a laughingstock. But if the unhinged House Republicans, bristling with resentments and conspiracy theories, win in November, the joke will be on us. 

Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies