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Partisans spar as House impeachment process advances

Rules Committee action sets up floor votes on Biden probe

Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Ralph Norman, R-S.C. and Chip Roy, R-Texas, during a House Rules Committee hearing on an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Ralph Norman, R-S.C. and Chip Roy, R-Texas, during a House Rules Committee hearing on an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday advanced a resolution that would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, readying it for a floor vote as soon as Wednesday.

The committee voted along party lines, 9-4, to send the measure to the chamber floor, after hours of debate that was equally partisan.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., announced as the committee jousted that the full chamber would hold a floor vote on the measure Wednesday. “As new evidence continues to come out connecting Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s shady dealings, the White House changes their story. Enough stonewalling. Enough lies,” Scalise wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “House Republicans will get to the bottom of it all. We will vote to affirm our impeachment inquiry tomorrow.”

A senior House GOP leadership aide described the floor vote timing as “planning for Wednesday.”

Members of both parties sparred for several hours, with the GOP side repeating their so-far unproven accusations that Biden and son Hunter Biden exploited the father’s post as vice president during the Obama administration to profit handsomely from the son’s global business dealings.

Rules Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., opened the hearing by stating members were there to establish a “process” under which House Republicans could obtain more information. He called it a “sad day,” but also important so the probe is at the “apex of constitutional power.”

Cole also said House Republicans were merely following the same “blueprint House Democrats did in 2019” when they moved forward with an impeachment probe of then-President Donald Trump pressing Ukraine’s leader to announce a probe into Hunter Biden. “So it is now a precedent of the House of Representatives,” and therefore, “appropriate we follow it in 2023,” Cole said.

But ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., blasted the impeachment resolution and entire investigation as a “colossal waste of time.”

“We are not here to begin a proceeding. … There has been an impeachment inquiry from Day One. … The president of the United States did nothing wrong,” McGovern said, adding that the probe has “no credibility, no legitimacy and no integrity” and it intended to “draw attention away from Republicans’ do-nothing Congress.”

Republican Rules members countered several Democratic amendments by arguing the resolution before them was merely the next step in a process, not one featuring articles that would actually impeach Biden.

But Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania summed up Democrats’ collective response with this critique: “That’s crap.”

“They have been given access to the evidence. Their own documents have debunked their allegations of … some fictitious conduct,” she added.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., fired back the GOP line that “this is about establishing a process” to continue the inquiry.

Republicans pointed to Hunter Biden last week being indicted on tax charges as evidence the son and father are corrupt.

“Here’s the difference. You’ve got a businessman who made his money long before he got into politics. What these facts, or what we will find out, and try to figure out, is what service did the Bidens provide?” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said. “That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of. He’s no businessman. He’s a politician. Let’s let the money trail follow … let’s follow the trail.”

Democrats were quick to note the GOP’s informal inquiry, so far, has not connected any dots to the president.

“The evidence shows that President Biden did not engage in any wrongdoing,” said Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-N.M. “The evidence proves that President Biden did not profit and did not engage in James or Hunter Biden’s businesses.”

If the impeachment resolution (HR 918) is approved by the entire House, Biden would become the fifth president to face a formal impeachment probe. Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (twice) were impeached by the House for high crimes and misdemeanors. The House also launched a probe into Richard M. Nixon in 1974, but he resigned before it was concluded. The Senate has never voted to convict and remove a sitting commander in chief.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, accused Biden administration officials of preventing some Department of Justice tax division officials from testifying as part of the probe. Formalizing the inquiry would compel their testimony, he and other GOP members argued.

“The fact of the matter is there’s been an extraordinary amount of stonewalling. This is why the inquiry matters,” Roy said.

McGovern fired back that the probe is not about any of that, telling Roy, “We’re here because Donald Trump … ordered you to be here.”

Members from both sides spent ample parts of the hearing arguing over specific phrases and words, with a number of Democratic amendments being shot down on 9-4 party line votes. It appeared no minds among the nine Republican and four Democratic members were changed when the committee gaveled out Tuesday afternoon.

By the final hour of the hearing, Republicans and Democrats were sniping at one another about other matters. The list included the number of bills the GOP-run House had passed as of Tuesday that were eventually signed into law versus the number under a previous Democratic-controlled House while Trump was president.

Members also groused about why a new farm bill has yet to reach the floor, and whether or not House GOP members are doing enough to lower prices for Americans. There also were partisan predictions about the 2024 election.

And Norman — who is not a physician — repeated a line often heard on conservative media, alleging the president is “cognitively gone.” Biden held two official events Monday and one fundraiser; he headlined another fundraiser in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, held closed-door talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and was slated to participate with him in a joint press conference.

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