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There is a major difference between what we want – and what we need.

This is a staple of the human condition.

But especially politics. 

Lawmakers and politicians often make various demands of the president, Congressional leaders, the public and even the press corps. 

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But in politics – much like life – there is a big difference between what political figures want and what they need

Take for instance the recent process to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

House conservatives frankly needed to impeach Mayorkas for political purposes. This may be especially important now for the GOP since their efforts to impeach President Biden were long sliding sideways. The arrest of FBI informant Alexander Smirnov further undercut the Republicans’ inquiry into the President, Hunter Biden and his family.  

House Republicans promised their base a political scalp during the 2022 midterm elections. Even last summer, Republicans couldn’t agree on who they wanted to impeach – be it the president, Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Washington, DC U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, Attorney General Merrick Garland or Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“All of ‘em,” replied Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., when I asked last summer who House Republicans endeavored to impeach.

The encompassing group have been who some Republicans wanted to impeach. But, politically, the GOP needed to impeach someone because of campaign promises. 

So, Mayorkas emerged as the “winner” of the GOP’s impeachment sweepstakes. Mayorkas is the surrogate Republicans are targeting for what they perceive as the myriad of administration’s ills, starting with the border crisis. A Senate trial for Mayorkas hits next week.

And we’re back to wants and needs.

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Most Senate Republicans want a robust trial. A lengthy, bona fide trial presents GOPers with a stage to highlight what they believe are misdeeds by the White House and its handling of the border. Some conservatives have warned Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about short-circuiting an impeachment trial. They wrote to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., demanding that the Senate “fully engage our Constitutional duty to hold a trial.” They’ve also wanted U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to preside over an impeachment tribunal. However, the Senate’s impeachment rules do not require the participation of the chief justice for anyone besides the president and vice president. And notably, former Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., even presided over the second impeachment trial of former President Trump in 2021. 

Do Republicans need a full-fledged Senate trial? Probably not. Did they need to place demands on Schumer and McConnell? Yes. But what Senate conservatives need the most is for their base to see them giving Schumer and McConnell the business about not conducting a lengthy Senate trial. In fact, the politics of the right might even dictate that conservative senators show outrage and disdain for an abbreviated trial. Such dismissiveness from the left plays into the conservative narrative that Democrats aren’t taking the trial seriously, and, vis-à-vis, the border.

Conservatives will also deploy this as what they say is another example of McConnell losing touch with the right.  

mitch mcconnell

So, conservatives might achieve what they need – even if they fall short of what they want

There is another set of wants and needs emerging as the government barrels toward a potential set of government shutdowns in early March.

Some conservatives genuinely pine for a government shutdown. You can imagine why. Many would like to use that as a wedge. They argue “no government funding until the border is secure.” Although no one can quite agree on what constitutes a “secure” border, let alone support a legislative plan to seal it. This is why conservatives detonated the bipartisan border package proposed a few weeks ago. Certainly many Republicans truly desire a secure border. But the politics dictate something else in conservative circles. They won’t admit it. But what conservatives may strangely need is an insecure border for political purposes. That’s how they can point to the Biden administration and portray this as a national security problem. So here, a need outweighs the want.  

But back to government funding.

Conservatives were genuinely securing some discretionary spending cuts on other spending bills. That may be what they want. But raising cane with the GOP leadership about cuts not being deep enough works better in some political circles. That’s a political need. And frankly, since Republicans have yet to force a government shutdown since they won control of the House last year, this may frankly be a GOP “need.”

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Wants and needs are not exclusive to the Republican side of the aisle.

Democrats may not want a government shutdown. A shutdown is definitely not a Democratic “need.” However, some on the left will privately tell you that a government shutdown might benefit them. Thus, this could be, in some diabolical quarters, a mild political “want.”

The impeachment of Mayorkas is certainly not a Democratic “want” or “need.” But Democrats guffawed when Republicans failed to impeach Mayorkas on their first try. A failed impeachment vote was definitely not a Democratic need. But Democrats basked in the schadenfreude and curated the narrative that the GOP can’t run the House. The failed impeachment vote was a Democratic “relish.”

And Democrats definitely believe that Republicans overplayed their hand on impeachment. This is augmented by continued impeachment talk about President Biden – despite recent developments. Again, not a want nor need. But news like the Smirnov arrest is something Democrats welcome in small doses. 

But there are other wants and needs for Democrats, too.

Some liberals want and need to make a stand against funding for Israel because of concerns for human rights in Gaza. Again, enter politics. Progressives need to show they are standing up for Palestinians – because of political pressures emanating from the liberal base. That’s a big need for some on the left. However, the true “need” part is a little more vague for some Democrats when it comes to the complicated politics of progressives. It certainly helps some left-wing politicians to even challenge President Biden over the Middle East. That too is a need.

Biden

So do we want a pizza or need a pizza?

Do we want a Coach bag or need a Coach bag?

Air? Water? A place to sleep? Three squares a day? 

We all have wants and needs. But the things that get the most attention on Capitol Hill often land in the want category more than the need category. 

That’s why this essay will now come to an end. 

For those of you reading this, I don’t want any smart answers that you “need” me to end. 

I could go on and on. I want to. But I don’t need to. 

After all, it’s dinnertime.

I want a pizza.

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