U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in the U.S. Capitol. (Ariana Figueroa/States Newsroom)
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday announced that he has directed several House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into unproven GOP allegations that President Joe Biden profited from his son’s business dealings when he was vice president in the Obama administration.
“These allegations paint a picture, a picture of corruption,” McCarthy, a California Republican, told reporters at a Capitol press conference. “This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public.”
The inquiry for now will allow McCarthy to skirt a floor vote, as it’s unclear if he has 218 votes for the House to launch a probe. But the announcement comes as a far-right group of Republicans have pushed for an impeachment investigation and have threatened McCarthy’s position as speaker.
Congress is scrambling to broker a short-term spending deal with the White House to avoid a partial government shutdown before a Sept. 30 deadline, and the House GOP is pushing for spending cuts in its appropriations bills at odds with Senate legislation.
Ian Sams, the White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, said in a statement that House Republicans have spent the entire year investigating Biden and have yet to find “evidence of wrongdoing.” He added that McCarthy initially planned to hold an impeachment vote, but has “flip flopped because he doesn’t have support.”
“This is extreme politics at its worst,” Sams said.
Democrats said the announcement by McCarthy showed him caving in to his right wing. “We have 11 legislative days to pass 11 appropriations bills and avoid a shutdown. Yet Mr. McCarthy — on his first day back — is calling for an impeachment inquiry,” Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on X. “This is not leadership. This is a mockery. Mr. McCarthy needs to lead his caucus — not the other way around.”
The chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, said on X that the impeachment inquiry is a distraction “from the fact that the GOP can’t even pass bills to fund the government.”
“So, here we go — headed to an extreme MAGA Republican shutdown while they play political games with a non-starter impeachment,” she said on X.
McCarthy said the impeachment inquiry will be led by House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer of Kentucky, with assistance from House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith of Missouri.
Jordan and Comer have spent the year holding various hearings, but those investigations haven’t revealed any direct link that Biden profited from his son Hunter’s business dealings.
“We’ll follow the facts, the Constitution, and the law,” Jordan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
McCarthy said the allegations “warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives” and said on X that they are “serious and credible.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, has openly threatened to strip McCarthy of his position as speaker if he did not launch an impeachment probe.
“When [McCarthy] makes his announcement in moments, remember that as I pushed him for weeks,” Gaetz wrote earlier Tuesday on X.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, criticized Gaetz for taking credit, arguing that on Biden’s first day in office, she introduced articles of impeachment.
“You wouldn’t cosponsor those and I had to drag you kicking and screaming to get you to cosponsor my articles on the border,” she wrote on X. “Who’s really been making the push?”
Shortly after McCarthy’s announcement, Gaetz took to the House floor, arguing that McCarthy has not held up his end of the deals he made in January with the right wing of his conference – when he was elected on the 15th ballot for speaker.
“Mr. Speaker, you are out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role,” Gaetz said on the House floor.
He said the path forward for the House is to “either bring you into immediate total compliance or remove you.”
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