Republicans scramble to get Trump his payback — yet keep coming up short

From impeachment to the border, the GOP in Congress made many promises to Trump and now he's getting impatient

By Heather Digby Parton


Published February 5, 2024 9:00AM (EST)

Jim Jordan and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Jim Jordan and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

As usual these days, Republicans in Congress are a bubbling cauldron of chaos and dysfunction with wild hearings, inexplicable strategy and internal strife. They are all fighting among themselves trying to curry favor with their party's leader, Donald Trump, and jockeying for power. And it's an election year, which even in placid times turns politicians into preening posers desperate for money and attention. It is a combustible situation.

The budget is still not settled although they managed to extend the deadlines for a short while as they try to hammer out deals on taxes, national security and the border. And they have a lot of work to do on all the investigations they are currently pursuing, which to this point are utter embarrassments.

It would be quite something to see Donald Trump's howl at his orders being rejected.

The big show was supposed to be the impeachment of Joe Biden, promised to Donald Trump as payback for the two impeachments he endured. That one's not looking good at the moment. The House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, who is running the Hunter Biden investigation, keeps punching holes in his own narrative every time he interviews another witness. Just last week, another presumed "whistleblower," Eric Schwerin, a former business associate of the president’s son, was interviewed in closed-door testimony and swore under penalty of perjury that the president was not involved at all in Hunter's business dealings.

This is how Chairman Comer lamely explained all this:

CNN reported that the GOP is finally seeing the writing on the wall

[O]ne GOP lawmaker estimated there are around 20 House Republicans who are not convinced there is evidence for impeachment, and Republicans can only lose two votes in the current House margins...

“You’d be hard pressed to say it’s going well,” said a GOP source closely following that investigation. “It’s a jumbled mess.”

It appears that Biden's impeachment is going nowhere fast but all is not lost. In the next few days, we should see a vote in the House of Representatives to impeach Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as part of their current election year border extravaganza. If they go through with it, it will be the second impeachment of a Cabinet secretary in history, the last one happening 150 years ago. Why are they doing it? They are opposed to the administration's immigration policies, something which has never before been the basis for impeachment, defined as treason, bribery and high crimes or misdemeanors.

They know this is bogus, of course. It's all for effect, much like the dozen or so different Benghazi hearings in the run-up to the 2016 election. Rather than have the Judiciary Committee handle the matter as is usual, they opted for the Homeland Security Committee to run the inquiry. They opted to only hold two sham hearings before releasing the articles of impeachment last week. They charged him with two articles: "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and a "breach of public trust," claiming that he failed to detain enough migrants and lied to Congress and the American people. These are vague allegations that don't even come close to meeting the Constitutional definition of impeachable offenses.

Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board, hardly a friend of the administration, tried to wave them off:

House Republicans are marking up articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and the question is why? As much as we share the frustration with the Biden border mess, impeaching Mr. Mayorkas won’t change enforcement policy and is a bad precedent that will open the gates to more cabinet impeachments by both parties.

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Perhaps most galling is the fact that DHS claims that if enough migrants are not being detained, it's because Congress has failed to provide the funding to do so. And now, even with Democrats and the White House capitulating to most of their demands, they are refusing to take yes for an answer.

On Sunday night Senate negotiators released the details of their hard-fought bipartisan border agreement which is harsher than we would have seen under any Democratic administration or congressional majority in the last 40 years. (There are some policy improvements as well as laid out here by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy) They agreed to the terms as the price House Republicans demanded in order to fund other vital national security priorities. So naturally, the House Republicans immediately declared it dead on arrival. This was expected since they've been saying that for weeks despite not knowing what was in it.

Republican House leaders immediately launched into bad faith interpretations of the bill with Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., even lying to the media and suggesting that he wasn't ever consulted on the negotiations (a contention refuted by the principal GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, R-Ok., who said that Speaker Johnson declined his invitation to participate.)

Now the larger bill, which also contains funding for Ukraine, Israel, and humanitarian aid for Gaza, will have to pass the Senate which, according to some observers, is why the House is rejecting it outright in the hopes that it will influence the Senate to kill the bill:

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I don't know what those means are but it would be quite something to see Donald Trump's howl at his orders being rejected. It's hard to see exactly how that will come to pass but the House GOP is so dysfunctional and working with such a tiny majority that I suppose anything is possible.

We know that Trump and the Republicans don't want to pass any border legislation because they have told us they want to use the "crisis" to beat up Democrats in the election. This is no secret. They also don't want to pass any more Ukraine funding for reasons that are simply inexplicable unless their apparent attraction to Russian President Vladimir Putin is more than simply for show. Speaker Johnson said over the weekend that he plans to take care of Israel in a separate bill (so his evangelical buddies and the hard right Israeli leadership don't need to worry about that.)

It would be nice to think that the American people will see through all this and realize how utterly craven and irresponsible the Republicans are being but with all the noise out there it's impossible to know if they can hear it even if they're paying attention. The one person we know for sure the Republicans have to fear is Donald Trump who is going to be very, very angry if they don't follow through on the impeachment of his nemesis Joe Biden. He made himself crystal clear on that and I won't be surprised if they go through with a perfunctory impeachment vote regardless, just to make him happy. If there's one thing they are terrified of doing it's pissing off Dear Leader. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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