The speaker said he would move forward with a vote that Republicans have long avoided for fear that some in their ranks would refuse to endorse an investigation without incriminating evidence.
- Share full article
“This vote is not a vote to impeach President Biden,” Speaker Mike Johnson said. “This is a vote to continue the inquiry of impeachment, and that’s a necessary constitutional step.”
Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday promised a floor vote to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry against President Biden, hoping to provide legal heft to an investigation that has been underway for months but has so far failed to prove Republicans’ claims that Mr. Biden accepted bribes.
Republicans have for months avoided scheduling such a vote, lacking support from some mainstream members who were reluctant to endorse a formal impeachment inquiry without any concrete evidence the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
But Mr. Johnson said on Tuesday that all Republicans could now feel comfortable voting to formalize the ongoing inquiry because doing so merely continues an investigation and does not assert any wrongdoing by the president worthy of impeachment.
“This vote is not a vote to impeach President Biden,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference. “This is a vote to continue the inquiry of impeachment, and that’s a necessary constitutional step. I believe we’ll get every vote that we have.”
An aide to Mr. Johnson said he planned to call the vote next week, but he cautioned that the schedule remained fluid.
Mr. Johnson suggested the vote was necessary for the investigation to be considered legitimate, citing a Nov. 17 letter from Richard Sauber, a special counsel to President Biden. Mr. Sauber condemned the inquiry and said that recent subpoenas and demands for congressional testimony from the former White House counsel, White House aides and Biden family members were “irresponsible.”
“You also claim the mantle of an ‘impeachment inquiry’ knowing full well that the Constitution requires that the full House authorize an impeachment inquiry before a committee may utilize compulsory process pursuant to the impeachment power — a step the Republican House majority has so far refused to take,” Mr. Sauber wrote.
Republicans have engaged in wide-ranging inquiry into Mr. Biden for months, hunting for evidence to back up their allegations that he corruptly profited from his family members’ overseas business dealings and accepted bribes. To date, they have failed to deliver compelling evidence to back up their boldest claims.
ImageThe Ways and Means Committee held a closed-door session with Gary Shapley, right, and Joseph Ziegler, who have alleged the Justice Department slow-walked and stymied the investigation into Hunter Biden. Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times
Representative Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican who hails from a swing district, said the White House’s lack of cooperation with the inquiry had persuaded him to vote in favor of authorizing the investigation.
“Two months ago, it seemed to me the administration was providing information,” Mr. Bacon said. “But now this past week, they said, ‘Well, without a formal inquiry vote, we’re not going to give this information.’ So, I feel like we’ve got to do it.”
The Republican investigation has focused heavily on the work that the president’s son Hunter Biden did for companies and partners in Ukraine, China and other countries. Using their subpoena power, the Republicans have obtained more than 36,000 pages of bank records; 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports from the Treasury Department; and dozens of hours of testimony from two of Hunter Biden’s business partners, a senior official from the National Archives and Records Administration, seven federal agents and three U.S. attorneys.
On Tuesday, the Ways and Means Committee pushed forward with the inquiry, holding a closed-door session with two I.R.S. agents who have alleged the Justice Department, under both the Trump and Biden administrations, slow-walked and stymied the investigation into Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden is under federal indictment on charges of lying about his drug use on a form he filled out to purchase a handgun in 2018.
Representative Jason Smith, Republican of Missouri and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, alleged the I.R.S. agents were exposing a “coordinated effort among the D.O.J., Hunter Biden’s attorneys and others to stop the tax investigation of Hunter Biden from following any leads to his father, Joe Biden.”
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also laid out his plan to haul in nine more witnesses for questioning within the next two months.
He said Republicans were investigating whether Mr. Biden took a bribe, abused his power, engaged in other forms of misconduct or obstructed the investigation. Mr. Jordan suggested that false statements the president made about his son’s business interests could constitute obstruction.
“We’ll look at all the facts and make a decision,” Mr. Jordan said. “Was it obstruction when Joe Biden said all the things he has said that turned out not to be accurate?”
Republicans have labored to prove that President Biden was enriched by his son’s business dealings. Many of the documents they have produced thus far have, in fact, demonstrated the opposite: that Mr. Biden lent money to his son and brother, James Biden, when they were in need, and they later paid him back.
On Monday, the House Oversight Committee released documents that showed that one of Hunter Biden’s businesses, Owasco PC, made three payments of $1,380 to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2018 when he was not in office. Republicans said the payments were evidence of corruption. Other documents indicate the money was to pay back his father for helping to cover the cost of a Ford truck.
Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the No. 3 House Democrat, accused Republicans of wasting floor time on “baseless accusations and political gamesmanship, instead of voting to lower costs or fund vital services that everyday Americans rely on.”
Mr. Johnson has toiled in recent weeks to ingratiate himself with the right after angering many in his party by working with Democrats to avert a government shutdown last month.
On Tuesday, he defended another move aimed at pleasing right-wing activists, saying he had decided to alter security footage he ordered released from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol to blur the faces of some of the Trump supporters who took part because he did not want online sleuths to identify them, leading to their arrests.
“We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the D.O.J. and to have other concerns and problems,” Mr. Johnson said.
Luke Broadwater covers Congress with a focus on congressional investigations. More about Luke Broadwater
A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Johnson Says He’ll Set Vote On Inquiry Of President. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
- Share full article