The Republican-led House voted on Wednesday to formally approve an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over his family’s finances, marking the latest chapter in a yearlong investigation that has so far failed to yield evidence of the GOP’s claim that Biden benefited financially from his son’s foreign investment deals.
The resolution, which passed 221-212 along party lines with unanimous support among Republicans, does not accuse the 46th President of any wrongdoing, but it authorizes three GOP-led panels to continue their investigation into his family and empowers them to petition a court for grand jury materials. It also retroactively approves numerous subpoenas that have already been issued and allows for the hiring of outside counsel to assist with the inquiry.
Republicans, who refrained from calling for a vote earlier in Biden’s term due to reservations from mainstream members, intensified their investigation into various aspects of Biden’s family and administration after winning the House majority. Much of their focus has been on Hunter Biden, the president’s son, who is currently under indictment on federal tax and gun charges.
The inquiry has delved into Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings, especially in Ukraine and China, as well as allegations that the Biden Administration interfered with a Justice Department investigation and mishandled classified documents. Republicans have obtained over 36,000 pages of bank records, 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports, and hours of testimony from key witnesses.
But despite the extensive efforts, Democrats have denounced the Republican-led inquiry for failing to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by the President. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tells TIME that House Republicans are “focused on trying to distract Americans from what they haven’t been to do” by investigating the Biden family.
“Republicans are on a fishing expedition,” she says, “and they’re extending the fishing expedition because they didn’t catch any fish. They didn’t get anything there. It’s an embarrassment for them that they are continuing this.” Jayapal added that moderate Republicans from districts Biden won who voted in support of the impeachment inquiry “will be held accountable” by their constituents.
House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that Republicans are focusing on financial dealings with Hunter and James Biden (Joe Biden’s brother), allegedly false or misleading statements made by the President about his son’s work, meetings between the President and his son’s business partners, and $240,000 in reimbursements received by the President from family members.
“I wake up every day focused on the issues facing the American people—real issues that impact their lives, and the strength and security of our country and the world. Unfortunately, House Republicans are not joining me,” President Biden said in a statement after the vote. “Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies. Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.”
The impeachment inquiry was initially launched in September by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the former House Speaker, who had criticized Democrats in 2019 for adopting a similar approach when they commenced the first impeachment investigation into then-President Donald Trump without an initial vote.
Hunter Biden appeared on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning and offered to testify publicly after Republicans issued a subpoena for him to appear for a private deposition and threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not comply. Speaking to reporters, he acknowledged his mistakes but vehemently denied any financial involvement by his father in his business affairs, adding that he refused to appear for a private deposition due to concerns that Republicans might selectively leak portions of his testimony out of context. “Let me state as clearly as I can: my father was not financially involved in my business,” he said.
Hunter Biden has been entangled in a web of controversy and legal challenges since his father announced his bid for the presidency in 2019, as Republicans have scrutinized his bouts with drug addiction and his business dealings in Ukraine and China. “In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances,” he said on Wednesday. “But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond absurd. It’s shameless.”
Rep. James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky and the House Oversight Committee Chairman, dismissed Hunter Biden’s refusal as “unacceptable” and vowed to move forward with contempt proceedings. “The president’s son does not get to set the rules,” Comer said. After the impeachment inquiry vote, Comer said he was “pleased” with the outcome and added, “ I think that sent a message loud and clear to the White House: We expect you to comply with our information requests and our subpoenas.”
While every House Republicans rallied behind the impeachment inquiry, GOP leadership has emphasized that formalizing the inquiry does not automatically signify an inevitable impeachment of the President. “We’re not going to prejudge the outcome of this because we can’t,” Speaker Johnson told reporters Tuesday. “It’s not a political calculation.”
Moderate Republicans also noted that voting in favor of an impeachment inquiry does not equate to endorsing impeachment. Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, who represents a swing district and voted for the inquiry, expressed skepticism about the likelihood of bringing articles of impeachment against President Biden, telling reporters that it is “more likely than not” that the inquiry will end without articles of impeachment as any evidence uncovered is unlikely to meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Joe Biden is the eighth President in U.S. history to face an impeachment inquiry.