House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and leading Republicans have begun strategizing how to move ahead with the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden this fall — the latest sign that House Republicans are seriously laying the groundwork to launch a rare case against the current president.
According to several GOP sources familiar with the talks, McCarthy has privately told Republicans in recent weeks that he plans to open an impeachment investigation into Biden and hopes to start the process by the end of September. While McCarthy has publicly threatened to launch an investigation if allegations by IRS whistleblowers stand, or if the Biden administration does not cooperate with requests related to the House Republican Hunter-Biden probe, sources say that McCarthy has sent even stronger signals about his intentions behind closed doors.
But the leadership recognizes that the entire Republican conference in the House of Representatives is not yet convinced of the politically risky idea of impeachment. For that reason, one of the biggest open questions — and something Republicans have been debating over the past few weeks — is whether they would need to hold a plenary vote to officially authorize their investigation, sources say. There is no constitutional requirement to do so, and Republicans do not currently have the 218 votes needed to start an impeachment inquiry.
Skipping the formal vote, which would be a difficult proposition for many of the party’s more vulnerable and moderate members, would allow Republicans to get an investigation rolling while giving the leadership more time to convince the rest of the caucus participate in impeachment proceedings. During former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, House Democrats finally voted to both formalize their investigation and set parameters for the process, after holding back at first due to disagreements within their ranks.
“I don’t think it takes a House vote to start an impeachment investigation,” Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who supports an impeachment trial against Biden and sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN.
Another factor that could complicate the fall schedule for an impeachment inquiry: federal funding expires at the end of September. McCarthy has already signaled that they will need short-term spending to keep the government going, which hard-liner Conservatives are reluctant to do.
The official continuation of an impeachment inquiry could help scare angry Conservatives away from McCarthy. And the speaker himself has publicly linked the two issues, warning that a government shutdown could hurt House Republicans’ ability to continue their investigation into the Biden administration — a direct appeal to his right flank and a beacon for the whole rival one Pressure exerted by the speaker is facing.
“If we close, the entire government will shut down. Investigations and everything else,” McCarthy said on Fox News on Sunday.
Republicans have cited uncorroborated claims that Biden profited from his son’s foreign trades and also political interference by the Justice Department in the ongoing criminal case against Hunter Biden as justification for an impeachment trial — which Republicans have been unable to prove, which the white House and the Democrats have repeatedly emphasized. Even some Republicans are still unconvinced they’ve uncovered evidence of serious felonies and misdemeanors, which is the hurdle to impeachment.
President Biden has claimed no wrongdoing on his part in relation to his son, Hunter, and the White House has repeatedly claimed that the President never did business with his son. Republican allegations of political interference in the Hunter Biden investigation have been firmly denied by Attorney General Merrick Garland and other senior Justice Department officials.
Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has previously accused McCarthy of engaging in “impeachment theater.”
And one Republican congressman who was granted anonymity to speak more freely offered an even clearer assessment: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden received any money, or that Joe Biden, you know, agreed to anything do so Hunter can get money.” There’s just no evidence for that. And without that evidence, they can’t begin impeachment proceedings. And I don’t think there’s any evidence of that.”
McCarthy called an impeachment inquiry a “natural step forward,” but when Fox News host Maria Bartiromo pressed on whether he had the votes, the speaker declined.
“Well, we were on summer break,” McCarthy said. “When we come back we’ll talk about it. But we find new information every week.”
Nonetheless, leading Republicans spent part of the August recess bringing the idea of an impeachment inquiry to Republican lawmakers’ attention.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, which would source the impeachment articles, held a conference call with panel members last week to discuss impeachment and other matters, according to two members of the conference call.
During the call, Ohio Chief Justice Jim Jordan told members that McCarthy had been seriously discussing an impeachment investigation, according to one of the lawmakers involved in the call, but did not provide a timeline.
And Gaetz said most members expressed support for an impeachment inquiry during the call.
“Even some of our more moderate members said that unless the next step was an impeachment inquiry, the oversight was not serious,” Gaetz said of the call. “There has been a lot of interest among my judicial colleagues to really involve and involve everyone in the conference. There’s a real desire to get everyone on board and go through the evidence with those who might remain skeptical.”
But not everyone is on board yet. During the call, a skeptical committee member pressed Jordan for the purpose of an impeachment investigation, according to a source on the call. Jordan’s legal counsel then intervened, arguing that impeachment could strengthen her position in court disputes over document requests, since impeachment is enshrined in the constitution.
And McCarthy has argued, both publicly and privately, that an impeachment inquiry is not the same as an actual impeachment vote, although many Republicans privately believe they would have no choice but to pursue the impeachment if they did open an investigation.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally and vocal advocate of impeachment against Biden, told CNN that the prospect of an impeachment inquiry “looks very, very good.” She said she spoke to McCarthy about it last week.
“He spends the break talking about it all the time,” Greene added. “I have a really strong feeling that’s going to happen.”
As for a possible timeline, Greene made her preferences known on social media: “We NEED to vote on the impeachment inquiry once we get back in session in mid-September,” she tweeted over the weekend. “There are no excuses to wait.”
And Trump — who recently asked his members on his plane to Iowa for updates on a possible impeachment trial against Biden — also continues to pressure Republicans to take action, growing increasingly impatient with the pace of their efforts.
“Well-intentioned Republicans in Congress continue to talk about an impeachment investigation into corrupt Joe Biden. … It doesn’t take a long INQUIRY to prove it, it’s already proven,” Trump wrote on Truth Social on Sunday. “Either accuse the bum or be forgotten. YOU DID IT TO US!”