House GOP eyes impeachment inquiry vote as soon as next week
House Republicans are preparing to vote as soon as next week to formalize their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
The emerging consensus around a speedy vote, which could help strengthen their hand in likely legal battles over subpoenas related to the probe, comes after Republicans huddled behind closed doors on Friday morning to update members on their investigation. After months of focusing largely on business deals by Hunter Biden and other Biden family members, GOP lawmakers have yet to uncover direct links to any decision Joe Biden made as president or vice president.
Even so, Republicans plan to press ahead on formalizing an inquiry that was started without a vote in September by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They are under pressure from their base to show progress, even if it’s incremental, toward their ultimate goal of impeaching the president.
“That’s the plan,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) about wanting a vote next week on formalizing the inquiry.
No one stood up during Friday’s closed-door conference to speak against the proposed vote, according to GOP lawmakers in the meeting — a sign that past resistance from centrist members is fading. Republicans will need near-unanimous support on their side of the aisle to vote in favor of an inquiry, given that near-universal Democratic opposition is expected.
And several Biden-district Republicans now appear ready to support an inquiry, pointing to arguments from investigators that otherwise their requests for interviews and documents will be stonewalled. The White House recently used a Trump-era Justice Department opinion to rebuff interview requests, arguing investigative steps and subpoenas initiated so far aren’t valid because Republicans never held a formal vote to start the inquiry .
“They said we’ll only give you documents if you have a vote on an inquiry, so I feel like we have to vote yes, and it’s different than an impeachment itself,” said centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
But there also wasn’t full attendance at Friday’s meeting, which means party leadership will still need to take the pulse of their full membership, with some members indicating they still aren’t sold. And the majority got even thinner on Friday after Republicans helped expel now-former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who has been one of his party’s most vocal impeachment critics, indicated this week he hadn’t yet seen something that would bring him on board. And Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said he wanted to talk to Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) before making a decision.
“I’ll talk to Jim and Jamie and hear them out,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that he wants to make sure that the rules are “consistent.”
Republicans who predicted a quick vote next week also cautioned that it would only go forward if they had the votes and could slide closer to 2024 if they need to iron out any remaining sticking points.
“I think we’ll have one by the end of the year, whether it’s this week or the week after,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Top Republicans haven’t officially said they will bring a resolution formalizing the inquiry to the floor next week. Comer said that the inquiry resolution was currently being drafted, though, in a clear signal that it’s poised to move forward,
Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he expected his committee, which preps bills for the floor, could take up the matter by Wednesday.
“That’s what I would anticipate,” Cole said about the timeline, while adding that the ultimate decision rests with leadership.
Republicans are months into a sweeping investigation aimed at the president as his reelection campaign kicks into gear. In addition to his family’s business deals, they are investigating the years-long federal investigation into Hunter Biden and Joe Biden’s handling of classified records, which is also the subject of a special counsel investigation.
While Republicans have poked holes in previous statements by Joe Biden and the White House, in addition to finding evidence of Hunter Biden trying to use his last name to burnish his own clout, they haven’t yet found clear evidence that the president has been improperly influenced.
Both the White House and House Democrats are preparing for Republicans to try to advance their impeachment inquiry, circulating memos on Friday morning that blast the GOP investigation.
The White House memo specifically seeks to counter claims of obstruction, writing that Republicans are “trying to invent claims of ‘obstruction’ and ‘stonewalling’ to rationalize their illegitimate so-called ‘impeachment inquiry.’”
Republicans also cautioned that, even if they formalize their impeachment inquiry, it doesn’t mean they will ultimately recommend booting Biden from office.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), when asked if they would have the votes to actually impeach Biden, said that was “getting ahead of where we are.” And Bacon doesn’t think supporting an inquiry makes an impeachment vote more likely, saying: “I think they’re two different things.”
“I think the voters should know the facts. And they’re going to decide next November,” Bacon said. “Unless there is something really stunning that comes out of all of this.”
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