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Sen. Mark Kelly says Biden impeachment talks are 'a distraction and a waste of time'

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) waits to speak during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) waits to speak during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol March 22, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Congress is back in session this week. Lawmakers have a full plate with a budget impasse, possible government shutdown and a hold on the promotions of top Pentagon leaders.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused President Biden of lying about his family's business dealings — and urging that he be impeached. Yesterday, McCarthy announced that the House will start impeachment proceedings.

On NPR's Morning Edition, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) told A Martinez that impeachment talks are "a distraction and a waste of time."

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

On McCarthy's accusations that Biden lied about his family's business dealings and should be impeached

Well, this isn't serious. I mean, there is not a shred of evidence to justify it. That's why they couldn't hold a vote. That's why my Republican colleagues in the United States Senate have said that they don't see any evidence.

On whether Senator Kelly's colleagues in the House see evidence of McCarthy's accusations against Biden

Not a single one has reached out. And it's because this is not a serious inquiry. The thing they should be focused on is the fact that government funding is going to expire in a couple of weeks. We've got a war going on in Ukraine. We have to defeat Putin. The North Korean leader being in Russia. Lowering costs for Americans. Creating good paying jobs. There's a lot on our agenda and at the top of the list is keeping the government open.

On the whether the House can simultaneously start impeachment proceedings and avoid a government shutdown

You mean doing two things at once? Have you seen Congress do that historically? I've been in the United States Senate now for two-and-a-half years. And I got to say, not speaking for the House, but for the Senate, I've never seen an organization with rules that make it really difficult to get things done. I spent 15 years at NASA flying the space shuttle. If NASA had the rules of the United States Senate, the rocket ship would never leave the launch pad.

On Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) freezing promotions for hundreds of generals and admirals because he opposes travel reimbursement for military personnel seeking reproductive care, including abortions, and why Sen. Kelly doesn't want to confirm individual promotions by a floor vote instead

In a previous statement, Sen. Tuberville said, "We need to get politics out of the military. It has no place in the place that keeps this country and our allies safe."

Under the rules of the Senate, these take a long time, said Sen. Kelly. Upwards of a week each. We're now up to about 301 service members whose promotions are on hold. What Senator Tuberville is doing is unprecedented. I mean, it's significantly harming our national security. And it's not just about the service members. It's also about their families.

And these are serious jobs. We're talking about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chief of staff of the Air Force, the commandant of the Marine Corps. Yesterday had the first woman who's going to lead the United States Navy, of which I served in for 25 years. She's going to be stuck doing two jobs at once. And as the chief of naval operations, she'll be acting, which means she can't make the most significant decisions for the future of our Navy.

On how this gets resolved

The best way to resolve it is for Senator Tuberville to release this hold. It's as simple as that. I mean, it takes one phone call, not even by him, by somebody on his team. What he is doing, he either doesn't understand or doesn't care about the damage that he's doing to our armed forces. And it's unconscionable.

The radio version of this story was produced by Nina Kravinsky and edited by Jan Johnson. The digital version was edited by Treye Green. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 13, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote about politics in the military to Sen. Mark Kelly. The statement was made by Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claire Murashima
Claire Murashima is a production assistant on Morning Edition and Up First. Before that, she worked on How I Built This, NPR's Team Atlas and Michigan Radio. She graduated from Calvin University.