House Republicans formalize impeachment inquiry into President Biden

Conservatives called the vote necessary to fortify the probe's legal standing.

December 13, 2023, 6:10 PM

House Republicans on Wednesday passed a resolution formalizing their ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The resolution, approved 221-212 in a party-line vote, directs three House committees to continue their investigations, which have yet to yield any hard evidence to support Republicans' claims that Biden was directly involved and benefited from his son and brother's foreign business dealings.

Republicans have called Wednesday's vote -- which one Democrat skipped -- a necessary step to fortify the inquiry's legal standing and combat what they said was obstruction from the Biden administration.

The White House has challenged some congressional requests, in part asserting the "Constitution requires that the full House authorize an impeachment inquiry before a committee may utilize compulsory process pursuant to the impeachment power."

After the resolution was approved on Wednesday, the House's GOP leaders said in a joint statement, in part, that "we will continue to follow the facts where they lead."

"The American people deserve answers. This impeachment inquiry will help us find them," they said.

Biden fired back in his own statement issued by the White House, saying Republicans were ignoring the country's "pressing challenges."

"Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies," he said. "Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time."

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks at a menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2023.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images via Shutterstock

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer had emphasized that voting in favor of the resolution did not equal impeachment, and Speaker Mike Johnson said Tuesday they "can't prejudge the outcome" of the probe.

The White House, which has labeled the inquiry a "political stunt," pushed back, saying that Republicans have already received thousands of documents, including bank records, and hours of testimony.

"There's no evidence here," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at Wednesday's daily briefing.

A key figure in the GOP probe, the president's son Hunter Biden, defied a subpoena to sit for a closed-door deposition earlier Wednesday. Instead, he appeared outside the Capitol to offer public testimony to answer "any of the committees' legitimate questions" but refused to testify in a private setting.

"Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry or hear what I have to say," the younger Biden said. "What are they afraid of? I am here."

Hunter Biden slammed the GOP probe, saying so-called "MAGA Republicans" have assailed his character in an effort to embarrass his father and damage him politically.

"Let me state as clearly as I can. My father was not financially involved in any of my business -- not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma [a Ukrainian energy company], not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist," Hunter Biden said.

Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2023.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said they plan to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress.

And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan seized on Hunter Biden's comment that his father was not "financially involved," characterizing it as a "huge departure" from past statements.

Jordan also argued that a closed-door deposition would have been more effective. "If you do it in an open format now, you're gonna get filibusters, you're gonna get speeches, you're gonna get all kinds of things," he told reporters. "What we want is the facts."

Wednesday's impeachment inquiry vote means the GOP-led investigation will continue into 2024, as the presidential race kicks into high gear -- and raises the prospect of more serious votes against Joe Biden, including on whether to bring articles of impeachment against him.

An hour of debate ahead of the vote offered a distilled view of both sides on the inquiry. Republicans said the resolution and investigation were about process, while Democrats criticized it as a smear campaign.

"We are here today on the House floor, wasting time and taxpayer dollars on an illegitimate impeachment inquiry, because Donald Trump, the puppet master, has directed the extreme MAGA Republicans to launch a political hit job against Joe Biden," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said as he displayed a sign with the hashtag "Do-Nothing Republican Congress."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar who led the second impeachment effort against former President Trump, said Republicans aren't able to "tell us what President Biden's crime was."

"This stupid, blundering investigation is keeping us from getting any real work done for the people of America," the Maryland Democrat said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, speaks during a news conference on Republican's impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2023.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Republicans, on the other hand, said the vote was part of their responsibility to investigate claims against the president and his family.

"I take no joy in today's resolution, but I know the House will do its duty," House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said during debate.

"We are the sole institution in the country granted the awesome power of impeachment," he added. "It is a power that must be used selectively and wisely and only after full deliberations. With today's resolution, we are ensuring that the House will be able to complete its inquiry."

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., echoed that: "We owe it to the country to get to the bottom of these allegations."