With a heavy dose of bluster, and scant evidence from months of investigation, House Republicans have launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Biden.
The launch came on a 221-212 party line vote after self-styled GOP moderates, representing districts carried by Biden, were press-ganged to go along.
Republican leaders will face a new challenge, likely late in January, when time comes — whatever the evidence — to draw up articles of impeachment. The GOP has only a three-seat majority in “the peoples’ house,” likely to shrink further with the resignation of deposed ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Wednesday vote took place against a backdrop of division, internal intrigue, and failure by the House to address issues of the day. The inquiry was pressed by ex-President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Comer, R-Kentucky, who chairs the House Oversight Committee.
They’ve spent months examining the troubled life of Hunter Biden, a recovering addict. As Rep. Jamie Raskin, Oversight’s ranking Democrat, noted: “A mountain of evidence and deluge of independent reporting — including from numerous conservative outlets — has discredited every single allegation leveled by Republicans against President Biden in their painstaking and fruitless inquiry.”
The inquiry poses dangers — for Republicans. The Bill Clinton impeachment saga actually produced gains for Democrats in the 1998 midterm elections. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, nowadays a font of partisan vitriol on Fox News, was deposed by his own caucus.
Joe Biden was for years the “poorest” U.S. Senator in annual income-disclosure reports. He has been acclaimed as a parent, suddenly widowed with two young boys soon after being elected to the Senate, dealing late in life with death of son Beau and the addiction of Hunter.
Jim Jordan told the House Wednesday that formal impeachment inquiry will allow enforcement of a subpoena for Hunter to appear at a closed door hearing. In short, Republicans can cherry-pick testimony and reveal it in the closed, poisonous atmosphere of right wing media.
Hunter Biden showed up at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, offering to testify in public before the American people. Of Jordan, Comer & Co., he said: “They ridiculed my struggle with addiction, they belittled my recovery; and they have tried to dehumanize me — all to embarrass my father who has devoted his entire public life to service.”
Seventy years have passed, but the question put by U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch to Red-baiter Sen. Joe McCarthy still resonates: “Have you no sense of decency?” It should be asked of Jim Jordan.
As Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cal., has said of the Trump impeachments, the evidence was out there for all to see. The 45th president, by withholding arms deliveries, tried to blackmail Ukraine into launching a sham Biden investigation. A mob of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on 01/06/2021, with some chanting “Hang Pence.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, kicked off floor debate Wednesday, saying: “We are here for one reason and one reason alone: Donald Trump demanded that Republicans impeach and they are going to impeach.”
Trump wants the House inquiry. It will enable him to seduce mainstream media with a “moral equivalence” argument. The lack of evidence will allow right-wing commentators to tell their audience that the “deep state” is suppressing the hidden truth. Trump can continue to call an honest man “crooked Joe.”
Distraction is also in play. The country has stabilized its post-pandemic recovery and is doing pretty well. Inflation is down from 9.1 percent in mid-2022 to 3.1 percent. The economy supplied 199,000 new jobs last month. It’s sign of a “soft landing” in which inflation is tamed with no recession. The Federal Reserve Board talks of cutting the prime interest rate next year.
Money from achievements of the Democratic Congress is working its way into the nation’s economy, lately in districts of two Washington Congress members who voted for the impeachment inquiry. Pullman gets a major airport expansion, no thanks to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Two notorious accident-generating arterials in Richland — George Washington Way and Jadwin Way, which funnel Hanford-bound traffic — get major upgrades. Rep. Dan Newhouse is busy pandering to the right to recover standing after he stood for Trump’s impeachment.
Well, such was the last Congress. Of the current House Republicans, Joe Biden was blunt on Wednesday: “Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on trashing me with lies.”
Inquiring minds will watch if the inquiry produces any evidence, and whether the GOP “moderates” show any backbone. In the words of Adam Schiff, “They’re always there for you when you don’t need them.”
This article also appeared in the Cascadia Advocate of the Northwest Progressive Institute.