By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to impeach President Joe Biden, hard-right House Republicans forced a vote Thursday that would send the matter to congressional committees in a clear demonstration of the challenge that Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces in controlling the majority party.
The ability of single lawmaker, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., to push forward the impeachment resolution caught Republicans off guard by the unscripted move this week. Many viewed it as a political distraction from other priorities.
The measure charges Biden with “high crimes and misdemeanors” over his handling of the U.S. border with Mexico.
Boebert, backed by her allies, showed how a lone lawmaker in the 435-member House could use the chamber’s rules to force a snap vote on such a grave constitutional matter. The vote would send impeachment to committees for possible consideration, like any other bill.
“The House is taking historic action,” Boebert said during the debate.
The dayslong episode underscores the hold tthat he House conservative flank exerts over McCarthy, forcing him to accommodate hard-right priorities if he wants to stay in power. It also reinforces, if not rewards, a small band of Republicans to employ rare tactics to exert power over broader House GOP majority.
Conservatives are gearing up for more such actions: The process Boebert used to force the issue is the same method another hard-right conservative, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., dispatched Wednesday to force a separate vote to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff over his investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
“There’s going to be no end to this,” Schiff told The Associated Press and others amid the censure vote Wednesday at the Capitol.
“Kevin McCarthy has no control over his conference,” Schiff said. ”The race to the extreme is now running the House of Representatives and of course it’s doing terrible damage to the institution.”
During Thursday’s overheated morning debate , the Republicans were admonished multiple times to tone down their remarks as they blistered Biden over his handling of the border.
Exasperated Democrats argued that the entire case against Biden made a mockery of the seriousness of impeachment, and merely an attempt to distract from the twice-impeached Donald Trump, the former GOP president now indicted for hording classified documents under the Espionage Act.
“Today they’re dishonoring this House and dishonoring themselves by bringing to the floor this ridiculous impeachment referral resolution,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, the top Democrat on the Rules committee, suggesting Trump put his allies up to it.
“This body has become a place where extreme, outlandish and nutty issues get debated passionately, and important ones not at all,” said McGovern of Massachusetts. “In short, the Republican Party is a joke.”
Behind the scenes, the outcome Thursday capped days of maneuvering by McCarthy, the Republican speaker, to quell the uprising within his GOP majority over the impeachment vote that many rank and file lawmakers did not want to take.
Such a sudden vote to impeach Biden would have been politically tough for GOP lawmakers and a potentially embarrassing spectacle for McCarthy, splitting his party. In a private meeting Wednesday, McCarthy encouraged lawmakers to consider the traditional process for bringing such consequential legislation forward.
In the end, McCarthy negotiated a deal with Boebert to send the Biden impeachment resolution for review to the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, fending off a vote for some time.
“I think it’s best for everybody,” McCarthy told reporters late Wednesday.
But conservatives vowed more votes like this to come,.
“We are just beginning,” said Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, an influential member of the House Freedom Caucus, during the floor debate.
Conservatives are lining up other such votes — to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to censure Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who was the chairman of the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — as they rush ahead with their agenda.
It’s all part of the right flank’s broader effort to steer control of the House away from the traditional centers of power, including the speaker’s office.
“This is what we were talking about,” said Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a leader in the conservative efforts to block McCarthy’s rise to speaker as they brokered greater say in the House process.
But in a sign of the right flank’s determination to push ahead, Boebert said that if the committees slow-roll action, she’ll bring her resolution back to the floor “every day for the rest of my time here in Congress,” forcing a House vote on Biden’s impeachment.
Rank-and-file Republicans were angry at being forced into the position of having to vote on a resolution to impeach Biden even though they had not gone through the traditional process of an impeachment inquiry. They resented a single lawmaker jumping the queue of priorities.
In one fiery exchange overheard on the House floor, hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene laid into Boebert for taking the Biden impeachment on her own. Greene has her own articles of impeachment against the president.
Greene confirmed the exchange later and said of Boebert, “She has a great skill and talent for making most people here not like her.”
Boebert declined to comment about the conversation, only saying it’s “not middle school.”
“I wish the anger that’s been directed towards Ms. Boebert was directed towards the president and his policies,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a member of the Freedom Caucus.
Gaetz noted that when Democrats had control of the House they went through failed Trump impeachment efforts by renegade lawmakers before the majority backed the effort and the former president ultimately was impeached.
“That did help the Democrats build momentum, so maybe this is our version of that,” said Gaetz.
Trump was impeached twice — on corruption and obstruction charges over withholding military aid to Ukraine while seeking political dirt on Biden, and later on charges of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol trying to overturn Biden’s election. Both times, Trump was acquitted by the Senate.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Stephen Groves contributed to this report.