Alabama Republican Sen Tommy Tuberville is not a popular figure on Capitol Hill these days. For the past few months, he’s placed a hold on US military promotions in response to the Pentagon paying for patients to travel to states where abortion is more accessible than where they are based. It’s infuriated Democrats and frustrated Republicans.
He’s also one of the biggest defenders of Donald Trump on Capitol Hill. But the former Auburn University football coach worries that House Republicans might fumble if they pursue an impeachment of President Joe Biden.
House Republicans are actively weighing whether to seek an impeachment inquiry of the current president, which mostly can be seen as an attempt at revenge for Mr Trump’s two impeachments. But Mr Tuberville said he didn’t know enough about it.
“Just like I said about President Trump, if you're gonna indict somebody, especially a president or former president, you damn better have a good case,” he told Inside Washington. “And I hope they do the same thing over there. They don't have a case against Trump. They did it anyway. But if we're gonna do it against this President, I hope they have a rock solid case to be able to bring it to the American people.”
It would be a mistake to call Republican senators more moderate than their House counterparts, but they do have to be more methodical. Indeed, the Senate killed both of Mr Trump’s impeachments. While the story that George Washington compared the upper chamber to a saucer is likely a bunch of malarkey, it does see itself as more responsible and a means to temper the passions of the often squirrelly House.
Needless to say, a House impeachment inquiry of Mr Biden does not enthuse plenty of other Senate Republicans. Sen John Cornyn of Texas was cagey when asked about it.
“I don't know what their plans are,” he said, adding that he hoped the House and Senate could pass the proper appropriations bills by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown.
He’s not the only one. Sen Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the longest-serving current senator, has testified before the House’s “weaponisation” subcommittee led by Rep Jim Jordan and has mostly devolved from the pragmatic midwestern consensus builder to more of an open partisan. But he did not want to comment when asked about it.
“I better reserve judgment on if they'd ever go through with impeachment,” he said, noting how he’d have to be a juror if an impeachment inquiry came to the Senate.
Mr Grassley’s colleague from Iowa, Sen Joni Ernst, echoed the sentiment, saying “I’m not worried about that.”
Unsurprisingly, Sen Mitt Romney of Utah, the sole Republican who voted to convict Mr Trump in both impeachment trials, cast doubt on the efforts.
“You know, I haven’t heard yet any allegation of a high crime or misdemeanor, which of course is the constitutional standard,” he said.
The contrasting approaches mirror the diverging stances of the two Republican leaders. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who once said Mr Trump bore responsibility for the January 6 riot and accused him of being on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s payroll, has firmly stood behind the former president.
He opposed Mr Trump’s two impeachments and while Mr Trump’s backed some candidates who turned the Red Wave into a Red Ripple during the 2022 midterms, he still won the majority and Mr Trump backed his speakership.
Mr McConnell has taken a different approach. While he voted against convicting Mr Trump, he also clearly holds a grudge against the former president for personal and political reasons: He delivered a scorching exegesis after he voted against convicting Mr Trump and accused him of causing the riot.
But the day before January 6, Mr Trump’s constant complaints about a rigged election cost him two Senate seats in Georgia. Similarly, in 2022, Mr Trump endorsed candidates who either lost – as was the case with Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona or Dr Oz in Pennsylvania – or those who won only because he poured gobs of cash to save them like Sen JD Vance in Ohio.
Some might accuse Mr McConnell of wanting to protect Mr Biden, who is indeed a friend whom the Senate minority leader likes personally. But the man known as the Grim Reaper has never taken action out of sentimentality. He and Senate Republicans know that impeachment would kill their chances to win back the majority and the White House.
And Mr McConnell saw it first hand. In 1998, he served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the same cycle after Republicans failed to depose Bill Clinton after he lied under oath about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. In response, Republicans won four seats but they also lost four, essentially going to a draw.
That memory means Mr McConnell knows this is a losing battle and is not interested in repeating the same mistake the GOP made 25 years ago.