Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday that the House will open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, amid pressure from the right wing of the House Republican Conference for such a probe.
The move represents a dramatic escalation by House Republicans against the Biden administration, which has dismissed the idea of impeachment as baseless.
McCarthy made the announcement to reporters at the Capitol as the House returned from a lengthy summer recess, as he attempts to avert a government shutdown over spending, as well as dodge potential threats to his speakership.
The California Republican cited business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and alleged that House Republicans found “serious and credible allegations” into the president’s conduct.
“This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public,” McCarthy said during remarks to reporters Tuesday. “That’s exactly what we want to know, the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well.”
The House now steps into the third presidential impeachment in four years. House Democrats launched impeachment inquiries into former President Donald Trump in 2019 and 2021.
The Biden inquiry will be led by House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James R. Comer, R-Ky., in coordination with Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.
“I would encourage the president and his team to fully cooperate with this investigation in the interests of transparency,” McCarthy said. “We are committed to getting the answers for the American public, nothing more, nothing less. We will go wherever the evidence takes us.
“I do not make this decision lightly,” McCarthy said. “And regardless of your party or who you voted for, these facts should concern all Americans.”
Ian Sams, White House spokesman for oversight and investigations, posted on social media that House Republicans have “turned up no evidence of wrongdoing” and are launching the inquiry for political reasons.
“McCarthy is being told by Marjorie Taylor Greene to do impeachment, or else she’ll shut down the government,” Sams said on X, the platform formally known as Twitter. “Opening impeachment despite zero evidence of wrongdoing by POTUS is simply red meat for the extreme rightwing so they can keep baselessly attacking him.”
No definitive evidence has been made public that Biden acted at the direction of his son’s business partners. But some House Republicans have touted what their investigations have found, as House Democrats contend there is no specific allegation of Biden wrongdoing.
Democrats have cast hard-right attacks against the Biden administration as an attempt to provide political cover for Trump, who is facing four different criminal cases but remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., took aim at McCarthy in a floor speech Tuesday, saying the speaker’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry was a “baby step” following weeks of pressure from House conservatives.
Gaetz outlined conservative demands and said he was prepared to move against McCarthy’s speakership if the California Republican did not comply. Those demands included subpoenas for Hunter Biden and Biden family members, votes on term limits and balanced budgets and the impeachment of the president.
“Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair,” Gaetz said.
One of the loudest cheerleaders for an impeachment inquiry has been Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a hard-line conservative who filed articles of impeachment against Biden shortly after he took office.
Greene previously pledged that she would not vote to fund the government if Congress did not hold a vote on an impeachment inquiry. But Greene expressed support for McCarthy’s Tuesday announcement.
McCarthy appeared to have changed direction on the process for an impeachment inquiry. Earlier this month, in an interview with conservative outlet Breitbart News, he said if the House moved forward with an impeachment inquiry, “it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
Sams, the White House official, called that a flip-flop and “extreme politics at its worst.”
Not all Republicans are on board. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., noted that an impeachment would not get through the Senate. “There’s not a strong connection at this point between the evidence on Hunter Biden and any evidence connecting the president,” Buck said Sunday in an MSNBC interview. “So I am more focused on the issues that I think Americans care deeply about.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, contrasted the Biden probe with the Trump impeachments, saying that Democrats had “overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump had attempted to extort the government of Ukraine” and needed “very little time to determine who was responsible for the attack of January 6.”
Nadler said House Republicans failed to put forward any specific charge against the president “because they have no basis whatsoever to launch this so-called inquiry.”
“Let me be very, very clear: President Biden has done nothing wrong, and House Republicans have not found a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise,” Nadler said. “Speaker McCarthy may get to keep his job for another day, but he has once again caved to the most extreme elements of the Republican Party.”