House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday he was directing the chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Ways and Means committees to open the inquiry over Biden’s family’s business dealings, after weeks of hinting at the potential of doing so.
The inquiry will be lead by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer in coordination with Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith.
The announcement comes amid the House Oversight Committee’s investigation, which McCarthy said found a “culture of corruption.”
“This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public,” he said. “It’s exactly what we want, to know the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well.”
House Republicans have been probing the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter from before Biden was president, but have yet to find hard evidence linking them and Biden.
The party has also asserted that the U.S. Justice Department has not fully probed the allegations against Hunter, claiming he has received preferential treatment in a recent plea deal that eventually collapsed.
In the weeks since that deal faltered, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special prosecutor into that probe.
Experts who spoke with Global News say little of what Republicans state they have uncovered actually implicate the president. The accusations, instead, are likely designed to hurt Biden politically ahead of his 2024 election bid.
“We all intersect with lots of folks, especially if we’re in the public eye every day. And people might have done bad things. But that doesn’t mean that we are corrupt,” said Henry Brady, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California – Berkeley.
Last month, when McCarthy initially floated the idea of an inquiry, he acknowledged the probes into the matter have not proven any wrongdoing, but said an inquiry would allow Congress to get information “to be able to know the truth.”
During the Republicans’ ongoing investigation, bank records and other evidence obtained appeared to show the younger Biden had pocketed millions of dollars for his work for Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, as well as legal work and business dealings with a Chinese businessman.
Comer and his fellow Republican committee members have also zeroed in on an unverified tip to the FBI that alleged a bribery scheme involving the president when he was vice-president. That centered around the claim that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop an investigation into Burisma and protect Hunter.
The White House has criticized the inquiry, insisting that Biden was not involved in his son’s business dealings, adding that McCarthy had flip-flopped on past statements about a Speaker being unable to unilaterally launch an inquiry.
“He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flipflopped because he doesn’t have support,” said spokesperson Ian Sams.
U.S. Republican senators refrained from commenting on Tuesday about the announcement, but Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin both agreed there were more important items on the legislative calendar to focus on.
“This is extremist Republicans trying to figure out how they can use the business of the American people, doing the work we’re supposed to do as leverage to try to improve their political position,” Warren told reporters at the Capitol.
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Manchin added politicians should be focused on avoiding a potential government shutdown.
“I’m just hoping that we can get this done,” he said. “We had basically a deal with the Financial Resource Act that we did basically three months ago. They all made a deal, let’s stick with that. You’re never going to have anything perfect enough for many of them here, but there’s going to be more than enough to pass a deal.”
Funding for the U.S. government is set to run out on Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year, and Congress must pass new funding bills or risk a shutdown – a place the U.S. found itself in just a few months ago.
An impeachment inquiry is only the first step towards potential impeachment and helps determine what charges to file against the person being investigated, though in McCarthy’s announcement he appeared to outline the potential charges.
“Despite the serious allegations, it appears that the president’s family has been offered special treatment by Biden’s own administration,” McCarthy said. “These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption.”
McCarthy’s move appears to be a reversal from his position earlier this month, in which he said he would only open an impeachment inquiry if the House formally votes for it, with no such vote having taken place.
It’s also not known if he plans to still hold a vote with the full chamber voting.
The Speaker’s announcement, however, comes as he continues to face mounting pressure from the party’s right flank which had caused difficulty for the lawmaker when trying to take the House’s top spot.
Some of the party’s lawmakers, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, had threatened to file a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair if McCarthy did not agree to the inquiry.
Gaetz and other Republicans had secured agreements from McCarthy as he tried to become Speaker, and under House rules, his opponents can call a vote at any time to try to oust McCarthy from office.
But even after the announcement, Gaetz again raised the possibility of ousting McCarthy under the terms of a deal.
Gaetz said the speaker could face multiple votes on motions to “vacate the chair” during a caucus meeting Wednesday for failing to comply with a secret agreement that allowed him to become speaker in January.
“The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you,” Gaetz said in a floor speech on Tuesday addressing McCarthy directly.
—With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and Global News’ Sean Boynton