WASHINGTON – When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after a summer break, one of the first orders of business among House Republicans could be pursuing an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who has sought to tamp down talks of impeaching the president, gave his strongest indication Sunday he will pursue at least the first step in the impeachment process, calling it “a natural step forward.”
The move to launch an impeachment inquiry comes amid allegations from Republicans on the House Oversight Committee that Biden’s involvement in his family’s business dealings were potentially improper or a threat to national security.
“It is a natural step forward that you would have to go to an impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” An inquiry, McCarthy said, would provide “Congress the apex of legal power to get all the information they need.”
The White House has denied Republicans’ allegations and called it baseless innuendo.
Conservative lawmakers have been clamoring to begin impeachment proceedings against Biden since Republicans took control of the House in January.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who introduced a resolution to impeach Biden when he took office in 2021, said in an interview Tuesday she is ready for the party to launch the inquiry.
“I’m ready for the rest of the Republican conference to get together,” Greene told conservative news site Real America’s Voice News. “We need to vote for this impeachment inquiry and move on with it.”
Moderate House Republicans have been playing it cool with an impeachment inquiry, saying they would rather not rush into things considering the House Oversight Committee and House Judiciary Committee have already been investigating the White House.
“I wholeheartedly embrace investigating and seeing if there was wrongdoing and there sure is a lot of smoke. I just don’t know if there’s a lot of fire when it comes to Joe Biden himself,” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told USA TODAY in an interview.
Bacon said he wasn’t opposed to an impeachment inquiry, but a yes vote from him would require “evidence of a clear high crime or misdemeanor,” or a refusal from the White House to cooperate with House Republicans’ investigations.
“There’s a lot of anger out there and my own view is I thought that Democrats mishandled both impeachments,” Bacon added, referring to former President Donald Trump’s impeachments. “People want revenge but that’s not right. That’s not the way our country has been done.”
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An impeachment inquiry can impact GOP’s chances of holding the House in 2024
Republicans are already in danger of losing control of the House after they took control of it from the Democrats in the midterm elections last year with a narrow margin.
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who has tried to pivot her party to the center, warned that impeachment could put vulnerable House Republicans in a tight spot ahead of the 2024 elections and force them to “walk the plank” on what could be an unpopular move and risk losing their seat, costing the House GOP majority.
“Every time we walk the plank we are putting moderate members, members that won Biden districts, we are putting those seats at risk for 2024,” Mace said on Fox News Sunday. ”We are putting the majority at risk.”
An impeachment inquiry could have mixed impact, Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University, told USA TODAY. It will likely rally the GOP base and may increase partisan turnout, but it can also alienate moderate independents and Democrats, he said.
“It will hurt Republicans running in more moderate districts and maximize votes in areas that they are already likely to win,” Wagner said. “Crossover votes are important in the general election and the inquiry is likely to hurt efforts to broaden the base, especially in battleground states.”
Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of House Republicans, told reporters in July that an impeachment inquiry would be done with “overwhelming consensus.”
No evidence to connect Joe Biden with his son’s business dealings
As the basis for the impeachment inquiry, the House Oversight Committee has repeatedly alleged that Joe Biden knew about his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings and engaged in influence peddling with his family as vice president.
As the White House denies House Republicans’ allegations, pointing out they have yet to produce substantial proof, some GOP lawmakers agree they haven’t seen any evidence yet to support the claim.
Last month, Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business associate, testified before the House that Hunter Biden put then Vice President Joe Biden on the phone with clients. But Archer said Joe Biden didn’t talk business on those calls, he said, nor was he involved in Hunter’s business dealings.
The committee also released a new report in August that identified millions of foreign payments to Hunter Biden and his associates, but failed to produce evidence that Joe Biden personally benefitted from the dealings.
“Right now I think there’s circumstantial evidence maybe,” Bacon said, referring to the report. “I just want to see clear evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor.”
As moderate GOP lawmakers call for patience, hard-right members push for impeachment
Even as moderate Republicans urge patience on an impeachment inquiry to allow ongoing investigations to continue, other GOP lawmakers aren’t backing down from their push to impeach the president.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., a member of the House Freedom Caucus and a lawmaker on the House Oversight Committee, told reporters in July he thinks there has been an argument laid out “very clearly for grounds of impeachment,” accusing the president of “public corruption” and “pay-for-play scandals.”
If House Republicans do open an impeachment probe into Biden, Bacon lamented what the impact would be.
“Big picture: this isn’t good for our country. We’ve had two impeachments last president, we (might) have one this.” Bacon said. “I just don’t like the direction we’re going. Impeachment should be a very high bar.”