WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are considering holding a formal vote next month to authorize the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden as the party looks to legitimize a process that has yet to yield any direct evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
GOP leaders floated the possibility of a vote during a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers Wednesday morning, according to a person familiar with the private discussion who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
The possible reversal from House Republicans comes amid a growing standoff with the White House over requests for information related to Biden and his family. Republican leaders have long said a vote on the impeachment investigation was unnecessary, but are reconsidering as White House lawyers use the lack of formal House authorization to argue that the entire investigation lacks “constitutional legitimacy.”
Yet holding a vote on the impeachment investigation would be a high-stakes gambit by House Republican leadership, with no guarantee of success, given their narrow 222-213 majority. With Democrats united against the impeachment push, GOP leaders would need near-unanimous support from their side for the vote to succeed.
A vote on the impeachment investigation would put every House Republican on record in support of a process that can lead to the ultimate penalty for a president, dismissal from office for what the Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” For some moderate Republicans, especially those representing swing districts that Biden won in the 2020 election, it’s a vote that could come with considerable political risk.
House Speaker Mike Johnson has expressed some caution about the impeachment push, warning against a rush to judgment. But he says the evidence already uncovered by Republican chairmen is “alarming.”
“While we take no pleasure in the proceedings here, we have a responsibility to do it,” Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday with the leaders of the investigation.
Johnson’s comments came just over a week after he traveled to Mar-a-Lago to meet with former President Donald Trump, who has been publicly pushing his Republican allies in Congress for months to impeach Biden in retribution for Democrats’ two impeachments of him.
But Republicans have been struggling to show progress in the nearly year-long probe of the president and business deals by members of his family, including his son, Hunter Biden. They have presented no evidence to prove that the president, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes.
Then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry of Biden in September, saying that the allegations themselves warrant further investigation by lawmakers. But at the time, McCarthy refused to schedule a formal vote to authorize the inquiry, a step that while not required has been done in the past to legitimize the constitutional process of impeaching a commander-in-chief.
Since then, Republicans have moved full steam ahead with their probe, digging deeper into the family finances, particularly payments that Hunter Biden received from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that became tangled in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
The White House has insisted Biden was not involved in his son’s business dealings. House Democrats have also been unified in their opposition, claiming that the inquiry is an effort to detract attention from former Trump’s legal challenges and turn a negative spotlight on Biden.
Republican leaders have pushed back in recent weeks, seeking to paint the investigation as a necessary process of checks and balances on the Biden family.
“House Republicans have worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people for months to deliver transparency, following the money and the facts to uncover what I believe will prove to be one of the largest political corruption scandals of our lifetime and potentially in our nation’s history,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of the GOP leadership team, said at the press conference Wednesday.
But despite being resolute from the top, many moderate Republicans have panned the evidence so far as not reaching the Constitution’s bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” required for impeachment. Those same people, who will likely vote next month to authorize the inquiry, have questioned the ability of leaders to ultimately garner enough GOP support to pass articles of impeachment against Biden on the House floor.
Only three other presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump, who was impeached twice.
To date, no president has ever been forced from the White House through impeachment. But former Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 as the House was preparing to take a vote on impeachment articles against him.
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