Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday he is directing the U.S. House to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over his family’s business dealings, launching a long-shot effort to oust the Democratic president from office.
McCarthy, a Republican from California, said he made the decision after consulting with his party’s leadership and members of the House Judiciary Committee, which will be in charge of drafting articles of impeachment.
He said the inquiry will focus on Biden’s alleged abuse of power and corruption in relation to his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures, as well as his role in the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about President Biden’s conduct and the impact it has on our national security, our economy and our democracy,” McCarthy said in a statement. “We have a duty to hold him accountable for his actions and ensure that no one is above the law.”
McCarthy’s announcement came after weeks of pressure from some of his most conservative and loyal allies, who have been calling for impeachment since Biden took office in January.
They have accused Biden of violating his oath of office by allowing his son to profit from his influence as vice president under former President Barack Obama, and by mishandling the chaotic exit from Afghanistan that left 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghan civilians dead.
Biden dismisses impeachment push as political stunt
Biden’s White House has dismissed the impeachment push as a political stunt that has no chance of succeeding in the evenly divided Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove a president.
“Speaker McCarthy shouldn’t cave to the extreme, far-right members who are threatening to shut down the government unless they get a baseless, evidence-free impeachment of President Biden. The consequences for the American people are too serious,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement.
Sams said Biden is focused on delivering his agenda of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding the economy and addressing climate change, while working with Congress to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion social spending plan.
He also defended Biden’s decision to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan, saying it was in the best interest of the nation and prevented further loss of American lives.
Impeachment inquiry faces uphill battle in Congress
McCarthy’s move to launch an impeachment inquiry faces an uphill battle in Congress, where Democrats control both chambers and have shown no sign of supporting the effort.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, called McCarthy’s announcement “a desperate attempt to distract from his party’s failures and divisions.”
She said McCarthy is trying to appease former President Donald Trump, who has been urging Republicans to impeach Biden and has not ruled out running again in 2024.
“Instead of wasting time and resources on this partisan charade, Speaker McCarthy should join us in working to create jobs, lower costs and strengthen our communities,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Some moderate Republicans have also expressed skepticism or opposition to impeaching Biden, saying it would further polarize the country and undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process.
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming who was ousted from her leadership position for criticizing Trump’s role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said she does not support impeaching Biden over Afghanistan.
“I think there are many issues that we need to investigate with respect to Afghanistan,” Cheney told CNN on Sunday. “But I do not believe that impeachment is appropriate.”
Impeachment inquiry could backfire on Republicans
Some political analysts have warned that McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry could backfire on Republicans, who are hoping to regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
They said the inquiry could alienate independent and moderate voters who are tired of partisan gridlock and want lawmakers to focus on solving the country’s problems.
They also said the inquiry could energize Democratic voters who are loyal to Biden and see the impeachment as an unfair attack on his presidency.
“It’s a risky move for McCarthy,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “He may please his base, but he may also alienate the swing voters he needs to win back the House. And he may motivate Democrats who otherwise might stay home.”
Sabato said McCarthy is likely aware of these risks, but decided to go ahead with the impeachment inquiry anyway because he fears losing his grip on his party and his speakership aspirations.
“He’s under tremendous pressure from Trump and his supporters,” Sabato said. “He knows that if he doesn’t do what they want, they will turn on him and try to replace him with someone more loyal.”