House Speaker Kevin McCarthy endorses President Biden impeachment inquiry

Updated Sep 12, 2023, 3:00pm EDT
Kevin McCarthy
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday he will endorse an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The move will help Republicans gain access to Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s financial documents and bank records.

The allegations “paint a picture of a culture of corruption” McCarthy said, adding that GOP-led investigations have revealed that Biden allegedly lied to the public about his knowledge of his family’s foreign business dealings. “This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public,” he added.

McCarthy has for weeks floated the idea of launching an inquiry as more details about Hunter Biden’s tax liability have come to light.

The speaker’s next step is to secure enough GOP votes to officially launch the probe, with several Republicans having already said they do not currently support an impeachment inquiry.

McCarthy's challenge lies in not alienating Republican lawmakers who are skittish about impeachment, notes Politico. The speaker’s core support will come from hard-right members who have been very vocal about impeachment, but his slim majority rests in the hands of a few moderate Republicans currently serving seats in pro-Biden districts.1 Some 2024 Republican candidates like Chris Christie believe that an impeachment inquiry could backfire for Republicans. “I don’t see evidence yet that would support impeaching Biden, and I think we’re cheapening impeachment by doing this,”2 Christie said on MSNBC, while calling for further investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax history.

The urgency to avoid a government shutdown was likely a factor in endorsing an impeachment probe, notes CNN’s Stephen Collinson. Republicans narrowly avoided a shutdown earlier this summer after approving short-term funding, but some hardline members essentially issued McCarthy an ultimatum, saying they would not approve more funding if McCarthy did not move forward with an impeachment probe. "Put the vote to the floor, even if it fails,"3 Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said. "I guarantee you, if you put it back, it’ll pass because every single Republican that votes no to it will get destroyed by their districts." GOP lawmakers, including some who were anti-impeachment, are now optimistic that the probe will avoid a financial catastrophe. "As long as he gets a coalition together, the better off we are to get something done,"4 said Sen. Mark Rounds. Rep. Ken Buck, the most prominent House Republican who was opposed to impeachment, changed tack Tuesday saying it was "a good idea"5 because it removes a "distraction" and allows for lawmakers to "focus on spending."

Announcing an impeachment inquiry without actually holding a vote on it “is the Congressional equivalent of Michael Scott ‘declaring' bankruptcy,”6 joked NBC’s Garrett Haake, in a reference to the hit TV series The Office. Haake notes that McCarthy appears to be contradicting his previous stance on impeachment, linking a 2019 resolution in which McCarthy condemned then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she would push for an impeachment inquiry into Trump. “Committees don’t get extra investigatory powers because the speaker says so,” Haake said. “2019 McCarthy thought so too.” Punchbowl's Jake Sherman reports that McCarthy is not expected to hold a vote on the inquiry and will open the probe without one.7

Impeachment is no longer a serious check of power and instead "just another tool to try and win the news cycle,"8 Semafor's David Weigel wrote last month. Most Republicans do not actually believe that Biden poses a democratic threat, Weigel wrote, but rather that he is a "crooked joke," and that an impeachment "is the best way to educate the people who don’t know it."