WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the House of Representatives may open an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden. But he may lack the votes to make it happen.
While far-right lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have demanded impeachment, a number of more moderate Republicans sound skeptical. McCarthy can lose only four votes from his own party and still push a resolution through the House without Democratic support.
Republicans have been looking into whether President Biden, when he served as vice president nearly a decade ago, did official favors for his son Hunter Biden, who was in business with foreign nationals from China and Ukraine.
So far, Republican investigators have failed to show wrongdoing by the president, and several moderates have suggested the material they’ve seen doesn’t justify opening an impeachment inquiry.
“We should have some clear evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor, not just assuming there may be one,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told The Hill last week. “I think we need to have more concrete evidence to go down that path.”
House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) has claimed that when Biden was vice president he pushed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to benefit Hunter Biden, who received millions serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company called Burisma.
Former President Donald Trump made the same claim in 2019, and Democrats impeached him for withholding military aid from Ukraine in an effort to make that country announce an investigation into the Bidens. State Department officials testified during the proceedings that Biden had merely carried out their policy recommendation, not done a favor for his son.
Comer’s strongest material so far may have come from Devon Archer, a former Hunter Biden business partner who testified in July that the younger Biden occasionally put his dad on speakerphone in the company of business associates. Republicans have claimed the conversations show Biden lied when he said he never talked business with his son, but according to the transcript, Archer testified that the conversations were never actually about business.
“There’s no evidence that Joe Biden got money, or that Joe Biden, you know, agreed to do something so that Hunter could get money,” an anonymous House Republican told CNN last week. “There’s just no evidence of that. And they can’t impeach without that evidence. And I don’t I don’t think the evidence exists.”
It’s not just moderates who have sounded negative about impeachment. Conservative Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) suggested in July that McCarthy was using “impeachment theater” to distract from disagreements among House Republicans about government spending. Conservatives are still mad that McCarthy agreed to higher spending levels in a deal with Biden earlier this year. They’re hoping to undo the deal in budget negotiations this month.
Greene, on the other hand, said last week that she wouldn’t vote for any government funding bill unless the House opens an impeachment inquiry.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates asked in a statement Tuesday whether Republicans would “break their promise and choose to shut down the government” in order to “appease Marjorie Taylor Greene and her far-right friends’ demands for a baseless impeachment stunt.”
McCarthy said Friday that he won’t open an impeachment inquiry without a House vote. He has insisted that the impeachment inquiry would not necessarily lead to an actual impeachment vote, but that it would help lawmakers pry documents from the executive branch and win court cases enforcing their requests. The speaker said last week that Republicans would ask for bank records that would show whether Biden had ever accepted a bribe.
There are 18 House Republicans representing districts that mostly voted for Biden in 2020. Several of them, including Reps. Bacon, Mike Lawler (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), told NBC News last month they weren’t sure impeachment was a good idea.
Lawler said his main question was whether the committees investigating Biden had produced facts and evidence warranting a more aggressive step.
“I don’t think it’s there at the moment, but these committees are doing their job,” Lawler said.