The House on Wednesday, under a party-line vote, adopted a measure that formalizes an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden as Republicans continue their search for wrongdoing in his family’s business dealings.
The measure was approved 221-212, with every Republican supporting it and every Democrat opposed. One Democrat did not vote.
The impeachment resolution spells out the authorities of three involved committees, and an accompanying measure describes the GOP-run panels’ subpoena powers. GOP leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who teed up the resolution, contend the move would place the inquiry on firmer legal ground, should the Biden camp challenge any subpoenas in court.
Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., unilaterally launched an informal impeachment probe in September, contending House Republicans were looking into whether then-Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden engaged in an influence-peddling campaign that allowed them to trade access to the father’s senior Obama administration post for sizable profits in global business deals inked by the son.
“This is a story as old as the hills. You’ve got a politician who does certain things. Those actions then benefit his family financially. And then there’s an effort to conceal it and sweep it under the rug,” House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. About the now-president’s role in his son’s businesses, Jordan asked: “What involvement was it? We know there were phone calls, dinners and meetings. What involvement was it? That’s why we want to ask these questions with important witnesses. That’s why this resolution is important.”
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Wednesday called the inquiry “political hackery,” adding: “This is not serious work.” And Oversight and Accountability ranking Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland said moments earlier that “this stupid, blundering investigation is keeping us from getting any real work done for the people of America.”
President Biden and White House aides have vigorously denied any wrongdoing. Asked last week about House GOP claims that he had interacted with his son’s foreign business associates, Biden told White House reporters, “I did not. And it’s just a bunch of lies.”
Hunter Biden was on Capitol Hill earlier Wednesday, using remarks outside the domed building to challenge House Oversight and Accountability Republicans to allow him to testify in a public hearing. The panel’s majority had subpoenaed him, but were demanding a closed-door deposition. “What are they afraid of? I’m here. I’m ready,” Hunter Biden said. “They have no shame. … They’ve lied over and over again.”
But Johnson and other House Republicans have accused the president, his family and White House officials of “stonewalling” their investigation, contending they have been denied requested documents and testimony.
“What are you scared of? The facts?” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., rhetorically asked Democrats on the floor Wednesday. Democrats have stuck by Biden, contending he is innocent and arguing House Republicans are trying to weaken the president and his party heading into a likely rematch against former President Donald Trump, who was impeached twice and now faces four criminal indictments.
“This is Donald Trump’s quote, ‘Either impeach the bum or fade into oblivion,’” Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Tuesday as the panel debated the resolution, quoting from an Aug. 27 social media post by the former president and 2024 GOP presidential front-runner. “And, unfortunately, my Republican colleagues are so fearful of him, or so afraid of him, that they do whatever he asks them to do. That is why we are here. We are here because of Donald Trump.”
As the inquiry enters a new phase, there were fissures among Republicans about what Wednesday’s floor vote actually meant.
“We are here to assert our Article 1 responsibilities, not to act as judge or jury, and we are here, fundamentally, to chart a path forward that unveils the facts to the public,” said Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla.
“Committees in the House have been engaged in investigating as they continue to pursue transparency and accountability,” he added. “We are formalizing their impeachment inquiry efforts to give the House the strongest legal standing to pursue needed information and enforce subpoenas. Allowing this chamber to be at the apex of its constitutional power is vital to our system of checks and balances.”
But another camp within the GOP caucus has sounded more certain about the probe’s ultimate destination.
For instance, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., predicted Sunday on Fox News Channel that GOP members would craft articles of impeachment sometime in the spring — even though members of his party acknowledge the Democratic-controlled Senate would not vote to convict and remove Biden.
Senate Republicans already would be down one vote in a potential Biden impeachment trial. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told NBC News on Sunday he opposes this impeachment push.
Over and over during the Rules Committee’s partisan hours of debate, Republican members of that panel contended it was not time — yet — to talk about potential articles. They contended formalizing the inquiry was merely about furthering a process to gather evidence they claim exists, but have yet to obtain or reveal to the American public.
“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?” Norman said. “That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of. He’s no businessman. He’s a politician. … Let’s follow the [money] trail.”
Biden and White House aides have accused Republicans of playing politics. Biden is “focused on what matters to American families, not Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories about his own family,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said this week, referring to the Georgia GOP lawmaker who introduced a Biden impeachment resolution back in May.
Democrats on the Oversight and Accountability Committee said in a statement this week that after nearly a year of investigating Biden and his family, Republicans have presented no evidence showing wrongdoing by Biden, let alone any high crimes and misdemeanors, the metric for impeachment.
“Instead, House Republicans’ investigation has been marred by cherry-picked facts and outright lies that have been repeatedly fact-checked and discredited by news organizations across the political spectrum,” the Oversight Democrats said.
Biden would become the fifth president to face a formal impeachment probe. Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and 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 commander in chief.
Democrats contended this week the impeachment inquiry would backfire on House Republicans at the ballot box. Clinton, for instance, benefited politically after his impeachment. Trump received more votes than another sitting president — even though he lost to Biden — in 2020 after his first impeachment.
A group working to defend Biden and attack Republicans investigating him, the Congressional Integrity Project, released a poll this week of voters in 17 districts with Republican House members that also backed Biden over Donald Trump in 2020.
The survey found a slim majority, 52 percent, said the impeachment inquiry “is more of a partisan political stunt” while 41 percent said it was a “serious effort to investigate important problems.”
Asked whether Congress should be more focused on impeaching Biden or “issues like the economy, inflation, crime and securing the border,” 14 percent said impeachment and 74 percent said the other topics. The survey of 613 votes taken Dec. 8-9 by Public Policy Polling via telephone and text had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Herb Jackson contributed to this report.