WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives is pushing toward a vote Wednesday to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden as Republicans rally behind the charged process despite lingering concerns among some in the party that the investigation has yet to produce evidence of misconduct by the president.
The vote comes as House Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team face growing pressure to show progress in what has become a nearly yearlong probe centered around the business dealings of Biden’s family members. While their investigation has raised ethical questions, no evidence has emerged that Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current role or previous office as vice president.
Ahead of the vote, Johnson called it “the next necessary step.” He acknowledged there are “a lot of people who are frustrated this hasn’t moved faster.”
But Johnson said on Fox News he believes the resolution will pass the House and “we’ll be in the best position to do our constitutional responsibility.”
By holding a vote on the floor, the speaker, who has been on the job less than two months, will be putting his conference on record in support of an impeachment process that can lead to the ultimate penalty for a president: punishment for what the Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which can lead to removal from office if convicted in a Senate trial.
A successful vote would also ensure that the impeachment investigation extends well into 2024 when Biden will be running for reelection and seems likely to be squaring off against former President Donald Trump — who was twice impeached during his time in the White House. Trump has pushed Republicans to move swiftly on impeaching Biden, part of his broader calls for vengeance and retribution against his political enemies.
In a recent statement, the White House called the whole process a “baseless fishing expedition” that Republicans are pushing ahead with “despite the fact that members of their own party have admitted there is no evidence to support impeaching President Biden.”
Some House Republicans, particularly those hailing from politically divided districts, have been hesitant to take any vote on Biden’s impeachment, fearing a significant political cost. But GOP leaders have made the case in recent weeks that the resolution is only a step in the process, not a decision to impeach Biden. That message seems to have won over skeptics.
“As we have said numerous times before, voting in favor of an impeachment inquiry does not equal impeachment,” Representative Tom Emmer, a member of the Republican leadership team, said at a news conference Tuesday.
Emmer said Republicans “will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead, and if they uncover evidence of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, then and only then will the next steps towards impeachment proceedings be considered.”
Most of the Republicans hesitant to back the impeachment push have also been swayed by leadership’s recent argument that authorizing the inquiry will give them better legal standing as the White House rebuffs their requests for information.
A letter last month from a top White House attorney to Republican committee leaders portrayed the GOP investigation as overzealous and illegitimate as the chamber had not yet authorized a formal impeachment inquiry by a vote of the full House. Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, also wrote that when Trump faced the prospect of impeachment by a Democratic-led House in 2019, Johnson had said at the time that any inquiry without a House vote would be a “sham.”
Representative Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, said Monday that while there was no evidence to impeach the president, “that’s also not what the vote this week would be about.”
“We have had enough political impeachments in this country,” he said. “I don’t like the stonewalling the administration has done, but listen, if we don’t have the receipts, that should constrain what the House does long term.”
Representative Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska who has long been opposed to moving forward with impeachment, said that the White House questioning the legitimacy of the inquiry without a formal vote helped gain his support. “I can defend an inquiry right now,” he told reporters this week. “Let’s see what they find out.”
For the impeachment probe vote to succeed, nearly all House Republicans will have to vote in favor. It will amount to a major test of party unity, given its narrow 221-213 majority. House Democrats are unified in their opposition to the impeachment process, saying it is a farce used by the GOP to take attention away from Trump and his legal woes.
“You don’t initiate an impeachment process unless there’s real evidence of impeachable offenses,” said Representative Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who oversaw the two impeachments into Trump. “There is none here. None.”
Democrats and the White House have also defended the president and his administration’s cooperation with the investigation thus far, saying it has already made a massive trove of documents available.
Congressional investigators have obtained nearly 40,000 pages of subpoenaed bank records, dozens of hours of testimony from key witnesses, including several high-ranking Justice Department officials currently tasked with investigating the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
While Republicans say their inquiry is ultimately focused on the president himself, they have taken particular interest in Hunter Biden and his overseas business dealings, which they accuse the president of personally benefiting from. Republicans have also focused a large part of their investigation into whistleblower allegations of interference in the long-running Justice Department investigation into the younger Biden’s taxes and his gun use.
Hunter Biden is currently facing criminal charges in two states from the special counsel investigation. He’s charged with firearm counts in Delaware, alleging he broke laws against drug users having guns in 2018, a period when he has acknowledged struggling with addiction. Special Counsel David Weiss filed additional charges last week, alleging he failed to pay about $1.4 million in taxes over a three-year period.
Democrats have conceded that while the president’s son is not perfect, he is a private citizen who is already being held accountable by the justice system.
“I mean, there’s a lot of evidence that Hunter Biden did a lot of improper things. He’s been indicted, he’ll stand trial,” Nadler said. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the president did anything improper.”
Nonetheless, Republicans had subpoenaed Hunter Biden to appear for a private deposition Wednesday, the same day of the scheduled vote to authorize the inquiry. His attorney has offered for the president’s son to come and testify in a public setting, citing concerns about Republicans manipulating any private testimony.
But GOP lawmakers have warned that if Hunter Biden does not appear, they will move to hold him in contempt of Congress.