As 2023 winds inexorably down, Republican lawmakers are wasting little time telegraphing plans to intensify their ongoing investigations into both President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in 2024 for alleged — and to date largely unsubstantiated — allegations of corruption, raising the prospect of an election-year impeachment proceeding against the incumbent president during his bid for a second term in office.
On Thursday, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong introduced a 14-page resolution to codify the impeachment effort announced this past summer by then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy by bringing it forward for a full House vote in the coming days. In essence, the resolution is a parliamentary affirmation of what has already been happening across several congressional bodies, by directing the House Oversight, Ways and Means, and Judiciary committees to “continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry” into whether there are grounds for impeachment.
Stressing during a press conference this week that the resolution and forthcoming vote is not, in and of itself, an impeachment of the president, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) argued that the move is necessary so that when any efforts to compel testimony or provide documents are “challenged in court, it will be at the apex of our constitutional authority.”
Currently, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Hunter Biden are engaged in a contentious negotiation over whether the president’s son will testify publicly, as Biden has offered, or behind closed doors according to Comer’s demands. To date, House Republicans have held just one public impeachment hearing, which one GOP aide described as an “unmitigated disaster” for Comer and his fellow Republicans.
‘Sad, pathetic, and a waste of everyone’s time’
The Biden administration brushed off the pending resolution vote, calling it a “baseless stunt” that’s “not rooted in facts or reality” in a statement from spokesperson Ian Sams on Wednesday. The White House had previously argued against the inquiry’s constitutionality thus far “because it had not been formalized with a vote of the whole House,” The Hill reported. Sams later shared a link on X, formerly Twitter, to an article in the conservative Daily Caller highlighting Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s characterization of the impeachment inquiry as a “waste of time.” In his statement, Sams agreed, describing the push as “sad, pathetic, and a waste of everyone’s time.”
Earlier this week, Kilmeade’s fellow Fox News reporter Chad Pergram similarly asserted that the renewed push for formalizing the impeachment inquiry was fueled in part by the Republicans’ “need to put a GOP win on the table for the base.”
The effort to formalize the impeachment inquiry also comes as moderate Republicans start “warming to the idea” where once they were skeptical, according to The New Republic. While McCarthy’s unilateral declaration of an impeachment investigation may not have swayed them this summer, they can now “cite the Biden administration’s recalcitrance as their reason to vote to open an inquiry next week.”
‘This is not a political decision’
Predicting that the impeachment inquiry resolution will get “every vote that we have” from Republicans, Johnson has also “toiled in recent weeks to ingratiate himself” with his party’s rightmost flank, particularly after he worked with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown in mid-November, The New York Times reported. But despite Johnson’s assurances, as well as the apparent softening of some moderate Republicans, the inquiry vote will ultimately be a “major test of party unity, given the GOP’s narrow 221-213 majority,” according to PBS News Hour. That narrow majority is set to grow even smaller in the coming year, thanks to several high-profile early GOP retirements, including former speaker McCarthy.
Johnson himself worked to diffuse the situation this week, explaining that at this stage of the process “whether someone is for or against impeachment is of no import right now,” and that “moderates in our conference understand this is not a political decision.” Still, moderate Republicans currently “ready to vote for an impeachment inquiry now may be more hesitant to back actually impeaching Biden” if and when that becomes a reality, according to The Wall Street Journal.