Dec 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans skeptical of House GOP’s Biden impeachment inquiry

Sen. Mitt Romney. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Swing-district House Republicans who held out on supporting an impeachment inquiry into President Biden are coming on board, but skepticism persists among some Senate Republicans.

Why it matters: If the House eventually votes to approve articles of impeachment against Biden, these same Republicans would be the jurors in a Senate trial.

What they're saying: "There hasn't been evidence yet of wrongdoing by President Biden himself," said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

  • "If they uncover that evidence, which they may, that would be truly critical and important," he added. "But we haven't seen that yet."
  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of GOP leadership, told Axios: "I don't see the evidence there."
  • "The House is going to do what the House is going to do," Capito conceded. "I don't have any influence."

State of play: The House is set to vote on Wednesday to formalize their ongoing impeachment inquiry into Biden over his family's finances – and in particular the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.

  • The investigation, which has been going on in some form since Republicans took the House in January, has so far failed to uncover a smoking gun against the president.
  • Republicans in Biden districts, citing a desire to strengthen the House in court battles aimed at enforcing their subpoenas and compelling the White House to cooperate, have shifted from skeptical to supportive of formalizing the probe.

Between the lines: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told Axios that House Republicans "should learn from the Democrats," pointing to the first impeachment of former President Trump.

  • Democrats "clearly did not have evidence" to impeach Trump in 2019 and 2020, Rounds asserted, and "were trying to develop it in the trial in front of the Senate."
  • Republicans "have to show clear evidence of an impeachable offense prior to bringing it to trial," Rounds said, arguing that failing to do so will "be seen as simply crying wolf."
  • Rounds added that a failure to do so would "not just ... backfire politically, but it would make it more difficult [to impeach Biden] should they actually develop evidence in the future."

The big picture: Some senators are simply exasperated with what they see as an accelerating cycle of retribution between lawmakers of one party and presidents of another.

  • "I think when the American people elect a president, there ought to be a high bar, which is high crimes and misdemeanors," said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
  • "This ought not be something that happens on a continual basis: every time we elect a new president, do we then turn around and impeach him?"

The other side: Some senators said they think the vote is an appropriate step, citing the same justification that many House Republicans have given.

  • "As I understand it, their position in enforcing subpoenas is enhanced when they can point to a legitimate legislative purpose like an impeachment inquiry," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Axios.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said the evidence uncovered so far "raises eyebrows" and "if the administration cooperated, they wouldn't have to do it, I gather."
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