The move against President Biden, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy had been signaling for weeks, comes as some far-right House Republicans are irate over spending and threatening to depose him.
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Speaker Kevin McCarthy had long signaled he was moving toward an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday directed top congressional Republicans to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, blowing past G.O.P. divisions as he worked to appease far-right lawmakers who have threatened to oust him amid a pitched fight over spending.
Mr. McCarthy said he would task three committees — Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means — with carrying out the inquiry into the president and his family as Republicans hunt for evidence of financial wrongdoing or corruption.
“Today I am directing our House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters gathered outside his office at the Capitol.
Mr. McCarthy has signaled for weeks that he supports an impeachment inquiry of the president to give congressional investigators more power to dig into Mr. Biden’s family finances. Such an inquiry would mean that Republicans no longer have to justify their investigation as assisting in the work of legislating, Mr. McCarthy’s allies have said.
But Tuesday’s move was a break with the past and a major change in strategy for Mr. McCarthy, who previously indicated that he believed the full House should vote — as it has in past presidential impeachments — on whether to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.
The apparent decision not to seek such a vote was a tacit acknowledgment that he lacks the numbers to do so amid divisions among Republicans. Several Republicans, including those from districts Mr. Biden won, 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.
After months of digging, Republicans have found no such proof, though they argue they have received enough information to warrant more investigation.
In brief remarks at the Capitol, Mr. McCarthy accused Mr. Biden of lying about his knowledge of his son’s business dealings, and he raised questions about the millions Hunter Biden and other family members made from overseas firms. Mr. McCarthy also accused the Biden administration of giving his son Hunter “special treatment” in a criminal tax investigation against him.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
If an impeachment inquiry were to be approved, House investigators would issue subpoenas for the bank records of Mr. Biden and his family members, according to those familiar with the plans.
The move to endorse an impeachment inquiry comes as Mr. McCarthy is under intense pressure from his right flank.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and frequent critic of the speaker, planned to deliver a floor speech on Tuesday outlining the arch-conservative case against Mr. McCarthy, laying the groundwork for a potential move to oust him. Mr. Gaetz and others argue that Mr. McCarthy has failed to live up to promises he made to win the speakership, including in his handling of the budget process, where they are pushing for steep spending cuts that have little chance of enactment in a move that could force a shutdown within weeks. They also accuse him of not moving quickly or aggressively enough against Mr. Biden.
Democrats have been readying their defenses of the president. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland huddled with members of his committee on Sunday night to plan a response to the Republicans.
On Monday, the Democrats released a 14-page memo detailing what they called the “overwhelming failure” of the Republicans’ investigation into Mr. Biden.
The memo noted that the Oversight Committee, led by Representative James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, has received more than 12,000 pages of subpoenaed bank records, reviewed more than 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports and spent hours interviewing witnesses, including two of Hunter Biden’s former business associates. But none of the bank records released so far show any payment to the president.
“Instead of working on legislation to promote the common good or even just keep the government running,” Mr. Raskin said, “House Republicans are weaponizing their offices and exploiting congressional power and resources to promote debunked and outlandish conspiracy theories about President Biden.”
Luke Broadwater covers Congress. He was the lead reporter on a series of investigative articles at The Baltimore Sun that won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award in 2020. More about Luke Broadwater
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