Monday, November 29

Republicans divided on how to hold Biden to account on Afghanistan

(CNN) — The Republican Party is divided on how hard, and how quickly, to pursue President Joe Biden in the wake of Thursday’s deadly attack on US troops at the Kabul airport.

While a growing chorus from the Republican base calling for Biden’s resignation or impeachment over Afghanistan’s disastrous exit from his administration, key leaders and others in the party have adopted a more measured tone for the time being.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even dismissed statements from some of his colleagues during a private conference call Thursday night, suggesting that demands for Biden’s immediate removal are counterproductive, adding that the The focus right now should be on getting the Americans out of Afghanistan safely. But he also promised to pressure the Biden government.

“I promise you there will be a reckoning,” McCarthy, who spoke to Biden by phone Thursday, told members on the Republican conference call, according to the sources. “We are going to hold everyone accountable.”

Republicans in general have been eager to keep the chaotic retreat in the limelight and believe it will be a permanent stain on Biden’s presidency. But Republican leaders know that by getting too political too quickly after Thursday’s attacks they run the risk of appearing cowardly and disrespectful to the 13 American soldiers who lost their lives, with flags still flying at half mast and the possibility of Biden traveling to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, when the remains of the fallen soldiers arrive.

Pictures show chaos after Kabul explosion 1:03

With Republicans in the minority but only five seats away from regaining the House next year, McCarthy has his eyes on the game in the long term rather than trying to score political points in the short term. But it’s a difficult balancing act for the California Republican, who faces an increasingly agitated right flank.

One of the House representatives even attacked Biden, calling him “unfit” to serve as president.

“Joe Biden has blood on his hands,” New York Rep. Elise Stefanik said, no. 3 of the House of Representatives, tweeted shortly after reports of victims of the airport blasts emerged. “This terrible humanitarian and national security disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden’s weak and incompetent leadership. He is not fit to be commander-in-chief.”

What will the international community do for Afghanistan? 1:34

Republicans to seek investigation into Afghanistan

Even before the airport attack, Republicans had vowed to investigate Biden’s disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan if they were to regain power next year, and some lawmakers floated the idea of ​​a Select Commission on Afghanistan.

In the minority, Republicans can do much less to pressure the White House. For now, however, they are asking management for information, sending letters, and taking steps that would help with future investigations. And with some Democrats openly criticizing the administration and joining Republicans calls to extend the Aug. 31 retirement date, Republicans see potential areas for bipartisanship.

California Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, informed lawmakers during Thursday’s call that he sent a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence requesting preservation of documents, according to two sources in the call. And Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also called for the documents to be preserved so the House can conduct oversight and investigations, another source told CNN.

But Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski said during the conference call that the investigations are not enough. Several lawmakers on the call repeated their warnings for Biden or other administration officials to resign, according to the sources.

Will Latin American autocrats ally with the Taliban? 0:55

Some Republicans call for Biden’s resignation

Earlier in the day, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn said that five senior American officials (Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley) ” they should all resign or face impeachment and removal from office. “

South Carolina Representative Tom Rice, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, also called for Biden’s resignation.

“Do the American people a favor. Quit and give the job to someone who can handle it,” Rice said in a statement.

As many in the Republican Party were quick to intensify their criticism of Biden on Thursday, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota took a different tone.

“While it may be tempting for some to seize this moment to score political points, now is not the time for that,” he tweeted. “Compatriots: Let us gather together, mourn the fallen, console the wounded, and pray for peace, leadership and safety.”

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not even mention Biden by name in his statement, instead focusing his response on praising the “heroic” work of service members, offering sympathy for troops and Afghans. who lost their lives and raise concerns about terrorism.

“This murderous attack offers the clearest possible reminder that terrorists will not stop fighting America just because our politicians get tired of fighting them,” said the Kentucky Republican. “I remain concerned that terrorists around the world feel emboldened by our withdrawal, by this attack and by the establishment of a radical Islamic terrorist state in Afghanistan.”

Even though the House was only in session for two days this week, Republicans held a litany of press conferences on Afghanistan, while McCarthy will hold another on Friday, the second of the week.

McCarthy has urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get Congress back in session early so that “the Biden administration can fully and fully brief you” before the August 31 deadline.

He is also calling for a House vote on Republican legislation that would limit the Pentagon’s ability to withdraw forces from Afghanistan until the evacuation is complete.

Democratic leaders in Congress said they were monitoring the situation, advocated securing the airport to help Americans and Afghan allies evacuate, and rejected criticism from Republicans.

“Right now, American heroes are risking and giving their lives to execute an extraordinarily dangerous evacuation, and the minority leader wants to withdraw funds from the mission and tie the hands of the Commander-in-Chief amid the most dangerous days of the operation, “tweeted Drew Hamill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, referring to McCarthy. “What’s not going to help evacuate American citizens is more empty stunts and distractions from the minority leader sitting idly by as President Trump proudly negotiated with the Taliban.”

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