Under pressure from hard-right members of his caucus, Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday directed House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. The inquiry will focus on Hunter Biden’s business dealings and GOP allegations of corruption or financial wrongdoing involving the president.
The politics at play: “House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,” McCarthy said. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
The White House pushed back on those claims, with spokesman Ian Sams calling the inquiry “Extreme politics at its worst.” In a social media post, Sams said that House Republicans have been investigating Biden for nine months and have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, with McCarthy’s own members have acknowledged.
McCarthy also did not seek a full house vote to initiate the inquiry, contrary to his past statements — an acknowledgment that such a vote would be likely to fail given Republican divisions on the matter.
“Several Republicans, including those from districts Mr. Biden won, have indicated they did not support an impeachment inquiry unless investigators could tie the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the president’s son who engaged in transactions with overseas firms, to his father, or uncover evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Luke Broadwater of the New York Times writes. “After months of digging, Republicans have found no such proof, though they argue they have received enough information to warrant more investigation.”
The fiscal implications: McCarthy’s announcement comes as he prepares for a showdown over federal spending and faces threats to his position from a band of far-right lawmakers who extracted key concessions from him in January as he sought to become speaker and have continued to complicate his job ever since.
Speculation has swirled for weeks that an impeachment inquiry might be a way to mollify conservatives and win some additional support for the stopgap spending bill needed to avert a shutdown after September 30. The conservative House Freedom Caucus said last month that it would not support a short-term spending bill unless several of the group’s policy demands were met, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said she would not vote to fund the government unless an impeachment inquiry was launched.
Politico reported: “Several GOP senators speculated that moving forward with the inquiry was a way for McCarthy to placate conservatives, who have signaled they are open to temporarily shuttering the government if their demands aren't met. And one unnamed Republican senator reportedly told The Hill: “Maybe this is just Kevin giving people their binkie to get through the shutdown.”
But some GOP members aren’t pacified. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on Tuesday said on the House floor that McCarthy was “out of compliance” with the January deal he struck to become speaker, citing a lack of votes to require term limits and balanced budgets. Gaetz threatened to oust McCarthy if the speaker brought up a stopgap spending bill. "September 30 is rapidly approaching and you have not put us in a position to succeed. There is no way to pass all the individual appropriations bills now and it's not like we didn't know when September 30 was going to show up on the calendar," Gaetz said.
McCarthy’s January deal with conservatives allows any single House member to call for a simple majority vote to force him out of the speaker’s job, known as a motion to vacate. "The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you pursuant to a motion to vacate the chair," Gaetz said.
Yet even as Gaetz calls for passage of individual appropriations bills, other Republicans are already voicing opposition to the defense funding bill the House is set to consider this week. And Gaetz also threatened to have lawmakers start "every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate."
The bottom line: The coming weeks will be challenging for McCarthy and his fractious members, and averting a shutdown will be difficult.