The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, on Tuesday announced that Republicans would open an impeachment investigation into Joe Biden over unproven allegations of corruption in his family’s business dealings.
The announcement by McCarthy kicks off what are expected to be weeks of Republican-led hearings intended to convince Americans that the president profited from the business dealings of his son Hunter Biden and other family members, but it is unclear if the GOP has the evidence to substantiate the long-running claims, or even the votes for impeachment.
The campaign comes as McCarthy tries to hang on to his position as leader of Congress’s lower chamber, despite a mere four-seat Republican majority and rising discontent among its most extreme conservative lawmakers, who are upset over a deal McCarthy reached with Biden to raise the debt ceiling while cutting some government spending, and have demanded recompense in the form of an impeachment inquiry.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption,” McCarthy announced as lawmakers in Congress’s lower chamber resumed work following a month-long recess in August.
“I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public. That’s exactly what we want to know – the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well,” McCarthy said.
While impeachment can be the first step to removing a president from office, that appears unlikely to happen. If the House impeaches Biden, the matter would then go to the Senate, which would have to support his conviction with a two-thirds majority – a high bar to clear in a chamber currently controlled by Democrats. The White House spokesman Ian Sams called McCarthy’s announcement “extreme politics at its worst”.
“House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing[.] His own GOP members have said so[.] He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip flopped because he doesn’t have support,” Sams wrote on Twitter.
The impeachment inquiry will be handled by the oversight, judiciary and ways and means committees, all of which are controlled by McCarthy allies and since the start of the year have spent much of their time trying to make corruption allegations against the president stick.
In a sign of the paucity of the results of their efforts, reports indicate McCarthy does not yet have enough votes in support of impeaching Biden. Earlier this month, the speaker told Breitbart News, “If we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person,” but backtracked on Tuesday, making no mention of holding a vote to start the investigation.
The corruption allegations against the president have generally focused on his son Hunter, who has been under federal investigation since 2018. In July, the collapse of a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors to resolve charges related to failing to pay his income taxes for two years and lying about using drugs when buying a gun. Last week, prosecutors said Hunter Biden could be indicted on the gun charge by the end of the month.
Republicans insist that Joe Biden illicitly profited from his son’s business dealings overseas, but have yet to turn up proof. In July, Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer spoke behind closed doors to the House oversight committee, and said the younger Biden would sometimes put his father on speakerphone during meetings.
But the former vice-president “never once spoke about any business dealings”, Archer said, adding that he felt Hunter was trying to create an “illusion of access” to his father as he pursued deals in Ukraine.
This article was amended on 12 September 2023 to correct the number of seats that make up the Republican majority in the US House.