Guest: John Nichols on the WI GOP's state Supreme Court impeachment threat to save their gerrymandered majorities; Also: McCarthy announces House GOP's evidence-free impeachment inquiry of President Biden...
By Brad Friedman
on 9/12/2023 6:48pm PT
Republicans have railed against the use of impeachment in recent years, describing it as little more than "election interference" --- at least when it was their obscenely corrupt, four-time indicted former President being twice impeached. Well, the party seems to have had a change of heart, as discussed on today's BradCast, as they are now threatening impeachments in both D.C. and Wisconsin. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
FIRST UP: Just 11 days ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told a rightwing news outlet that, unlike those corrupt Democrats under Nancy Pelosi during the Trump era, Republicans wouldn't open an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden without a full vote of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes," McCarthy vowed in his statement just 11 days ago. "The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives. That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person."
On Tuesday, one person, Kevin McCarthy, declared he was opening an Impeachment Inquiry in the People's House into Joe Biden's "culture of corruption". That, of course, is a nice way of describing an impeachment inquiry of the sitting President that has no actual evidence of either high crimes or misdemeanors. The unilaterally announced inquiry (he took no questions from media afterward) comes on the heels of three ongoing, GOP-led U.S. House probes into the business dealings of the President's son, Hunter Biden, which includes a five-year long (and continuing) criminal probe by a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney.
Despite all of that, there remains no independently verifiable evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden, or even evidence that he had anything to do with his son's business affairs. There is a mountain of evidence, however, that the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House has fully captured the Speaker, who they allowed to take the gavel this year, after 15 rounds of voting, in exchange for a host of concessions. One is that any single member of the House may call a vote at any time to remove McCarthy as Speaker.
With the federal fiscal year ending on September 30, the far-right GOP House mob is now threatening to shut down the Government without passing spending bills that McCarthy agreed to with Biden earlier this year (as part of a deal to avoid GOP threats, at the time, to allow the federal government to default on its bills for the first time in history.) McCarthy's announcement today appears to be an effort to win back his radicalized caucus at least long enough to adopt a 30-day Continuing Resolution to keep the government open before the end of the month and/or prevent himself from being ousted as Speaker. We wish him luck on all of the above.
NEXT: The U.S. House is not the only place where Republicans are desperately embracing impeachment in hopes of salvaging their political fortunes. Wisconsin's state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has been threatening to impeach state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz unless she recuses from two challenges to the state's wildly gerrymandered state legislative maps.
She was elected by an 11-point landslide in the previously closely-divided battleground state earlier this year, giving liberals a 4 to 3 majority on the High Court for the first time in 15 years. She was seated August 1 and, the very next day, petitions were filed with the Court seeking to replace the GOP's rigged maps with fair ones.
Vos is demanding that Protasiewicz recuse from the cases based on the fact that, while running for the job, she referred to the state's rigged maps as "rigged". Which, of course, they are. So much so that --- despite a majority on the Supreme Court and the top statewide elected offices being filled by Democrats, including two-term Governor Tony Evers --- Republicans still have more than enough votes, most likely, to impeach Protasiewicz in the Assembly and a two-thirds majority in the Senate, as needed to remove her from office before she's even heard a single case.
As one of the petitions [PDF] now before the Court argues: "Since 2012, even when Democrats have won as much as 53% of the vote, they have held no more than 39 of the 99 Assembly seats. In the same period, when Republicans have won as little as 44.8% of the statewide vote, they have held no fewer than 66 of the 99 seats and saw victories that yielded them 22 of 33 senate seats."
Native Wisconsinite, longtime progressive author and journalist JOHN NICHOLS joins us today to help make sense of and offer context to what he characterizes as the Wisconsin GOP's "unprecedented" use of the impeachment power in the Badger State --- or any other.
He describes the "high stakes political war" as "a game of chicken," with Republicans "upping their threat" to remove Protasiewicz, "not because it's legitimate, but because these folks might well do something crazy."
"I don't think you can say it's a foregone conclusion that they will impeach," he cautions. "I would say we've moved to the point where it's likely. They have realized, once the lawsuits were filed, that if the Court moves forward on these, they are going to be upended politically. Basically, this is self-preservation at this point. If you know anything about politics, self-preservation is a stronger motivation than partisanship or ideology. That's what tips the balance toward the likelihood of impeachment."
"The best way to understand the Republican Party of Wisconsin is that this is a political party that's in crisis," Nichols tells me. "Their crisis is that the state, which really was pretty evenly divided [is now leaning Democratic.] If that's the case, then for the Republicans, the only way they survive politically is to either change, become a much more moderate party --- they're unlikely to do that --- or game the process."
And, while one single Republican in the state Senate could prevent Protasiewicz' removal, the WI Constitution, as Nichols explains, has a provision "that's really become the heart of the whole matter. The clause says that if you are impeached by the state Assembly, you cannot rule on cases that come before the court. This is the key to it. We've always known there aren't the votes in the state Senate. But because of that clause, they don't have to send it to the Senate. They can just impeach her, and then leave her in limbo for a year and a half, at least until the legislative session ends. Which would eliminate any action as regards the 2024 maps, potentially the 2026 maps."
Could she simply resign and be reappointed by Evers until the next election? Yes, says Nichols, but there is a rub. Tune in for it.
All of this, however, may come at a great cost to Republicans, he explains, as voters respond to this radical tactic as Constitutional abortion rights, union rights and voting rights are all expected to come before the liberal Court that voters elected this year.
How does this "game of chicken" end? Nichols, who told me a month ago, when Vos' threat first emerged, that we were likely "in for a wild ride," now promises a "roller coaster" in his home state in the coming weeks, as state Dems are now spending at least $4 million to let Wisconsin voters know what Republicans are up to in advance of 2024. If the GOP pulls this trigger, Nichols believes, they could be in for serious trouble when voters return to the polls next year.
FINALLY: Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as horrific flooding moves from Greece to Libya where it has taken thousands of lives over the past several days; Africa holds its first-ever climate summit and calls for a global fossil fuel carbon tax; and climate protesters interrupt the U.S. Open...
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Article Categories: BRAD BLOG Media Appearance
, U.S. House
, Joe Biden
, WI Supreme Court Election
, Climate change
, Extreme weather
, Kevin McCarthy
, Tony Evers
, Carbon Tax
, Election 2024
, Election 2023
, Hunter Biden
, Janet Protasiewicz
, Robin Vos