And that’s not the only political hot spot they are preparing to deal with.
Biden aides are also bracing for another looming battle with Republicans over government funding. They believe that this standoff will also turn in their favor, especially if it results in a government shutdown. But there too, there is consternation. Biden aides have expressed concern about the damage a prolonged shutdown could do to the economy and the public psyche, especially as Biden struggles to convince voters that the country’s economic outlook is improving. .
“The only problem with the (Republican) impeachment strategy is that they have absolutely no reason to impeach the president,” said a White House adviser who, like many others interviewed for this article, said benefited from anonymity to express themselves freely on the discussions. “The closure is a more serious matter. But I think the strategy will be to emphasize that we have an agreement and that the President must respect his commitments.
The two fall dilemmas have already begun to impact West Wing operations. The president and his aides are stepping up their push for a short-term funding resolution to keep government open, while stressing the need for additional funds to respond to various natural disasters across the country. They also plan to use September to focus on Biden’s work to address critical economic issues at home and abroad, with the aim of portraying Republicans as disinterested in resolving a stalemate or as subscribing to it. downright.
Meanwhile, over the past year, the White House has gradually built up a situation room to handle Republican investigations. About two dozen people — a mix of attorneys, legislative staff and communications aides — have been tasked with strategizing to fend off GOP investigations. As the rhetoric has intensified recently, the West Wing has been in frequent communication with House Democratic leaders to prepare for the process.
“Republicans tried a lot of these moves in 2020 and they failed,” said a Democrat close to the Biden campaign. “But in an effort to support (Donald) Trump’s 2024 campaign and get political revenge, these same Republicans are peddling the same debunked conspiracy theories that have been talked about for about five years. They have been investigated time and time again. They have failed to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the President and the Americans see through. »
Biden himself spent little time dwelling on the likely impeachment inquiry, according to two people familiar with his thinking. But those around him believe President Kevin McCarthy’s approach to impeachment lacks a comprehensive strategy – and that he may ultimately launch an inquiry just to appease conservatives angry at the state of government spending.
This, according to opinion within the West Wing, could deepen the divisions already marked within the House Republican conference on the issue, potentially forcing McCarthy either to launch an investigation before winning the full support of his most vulnerable members or to endanger his presidency. a reaction from the right.
Biden allies are also betting that the Republican Party’s growing focus on impeachment represents a tacit admission that years of ongoing investigations have yielded few results. A new survey would therefore subsequently be perceived by voters as a pointless fishing trip.
Even some Republicans recognize that an impeachment inquiry carries political risk.
In the midterm elections, after the launch of an impeachment inquiry against then-President Bill Clinton, Democrats won a handful of House seats, although Republicans retained a majority. Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, said Republicans in the House of Representatives still had work to do to convince Americans that Biden’s impeachment was “inevitable.”
“My first piece of advice is to take it slow, be careful and keep uncovering more and more examples of corruption,” he said. “And I say that partly because I think when we impeached Clinton, where we were, I think, we were absolutely right that he had clearly committed a crime, he had committed perjury…because we failed to fully convince the American people, we were not convinced. able to get the Senate to hold a serious trial.
A spokesperson for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment.
Yet even as they brace for an impeachment battle led by McCarthy, White House officials recognize they will simultaneously need to work with the Republican House leader to avoid a government shutdown that could disrupt the government. savings in less than a month.
Biden and McCarthy struck a debt ceiling deal in early spring precisely to avoid such a battle. But with conservatives now calling for a renegotiation of deeper spending cuts, senior Democrats are increasingly concerned that McCarthy feels the need to take a hard line against a short-term bill aimed at keep government open until December.
“They want one, and they’ll get it,” Rep. Dan Kildee (Democrat of Michigan) said of the government shutdown. “It will be the closure of the Freedom Caucus. »
The White House does not intend to personally involve Biden in day-to-day discussions of this spending battle, his aides insisted. House Republicans have far less leverage to win political concessions than during a debt ceiling standoff that put the global economy at risk, a White House official said, meaning the only message Biden will have for McCarthy from now on is to keep your word and do. his work.
“What will their argument be now? Won’t the president renegotiate with us? said the White House adviser. “We had a discussion, we reached an agreement. Either your word is good or it is not.
Biden officials largely trust Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and leading House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries to handle the tough weeks ahead, top White House budget official Shalanda Young , being responsible for closely monitoring the process behind the scenes.
Aides also hope Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will take a more active role. But his recent bout with health leaves it open to question whether he will. After being absent in the fight against the debt ceiling, McConnell made a point of expressing his support for a quick resolution in September, stating bluntly recently that the Republican Party’s push in the House of Representatives for spending cuts ” will not be reproduced in the Senate”.
“President McCarthy should join Senate Republicans, House and Senate Democrats, and President Biden in keeping their promise and funding the government,” said the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Andrew Bates. “A shutdown would hurt our economy, force troops and law enforcement to work without guaranteed pay, and hurt our ability to respond to natural disasters and fight fentanyl trafficking. »
Meanwhile, the White House plans to refine its messaging throughout the month, aiming to cast the president as obsessed with critical economic issues while Republicans flirt with a shutdown.
Along with promoting his domestic efforts to cut costs and boost the economy, allies hope Biden’s travel agenda will give him more seriousness. The president will soon attend the G20 economic summit in India before heading to Vietnam as part of the administration’s efforts to curb China’s influence in the region. He will also meet with world leaders at the UN General Assembly later this month.
Still, officials admitted there remain a worrying number of unknowns heading into the next pivotal weeks — and chief among them is McCarthy, the GOP leader whose actions remain beyond the control of the government. west wing. While Biden officials came to view McCarthy as a bona fide partner in the debt ceiling negotiations, they also concluded he was a weak speaker. Since then, his standing with conservatives has only eroded further, raising questions among many Democrats about what drastic measures he might feel the need to take to protect his job.
“I hope we can work together to avoid a shutdown, but there are a number of members of their conference who would like to see the government shut down just as quickly,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Democrat of Connecticut), the main Democratic appropriator. “The Freedom Caucus makes claims that would be untenable. »
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.