A possible President Joe Biden impeachment faces a crucial test on Tuesday, Dec. 12, as the US House of Representatives Committee on Rules will discuss a resolution that would set the stage for House-authorized impeachment proceedings. Republicans have already gathered evidence that indicates the commander-in-chief and former vice president was involved in and benefited from certain business and financial deals with foreign entities – deals that were struck by his son, Hunter, using Joe Biden’s political stature as leverage.
That evidence continues to mount, though an impeachment has not been formalized. The Rules Committee will decide whether to send House Resolution 918 out for a floor vote. The resolution authorizes the investigating committees to continue their work “as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Joseph Biden, President of the United States of America, and for other purposes.” The full House vote on launching a formal impeachment inquiry could then happen within days.
So far, three House committees have been looking into potential corruption directly involving three Biden family members: Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and Joe’s brother, James. Other members of the family are less directly associated but also benefited financially from large payments made to Hunter Biden by foreign businesses and individuals.
Should the Rules Committee send the resolution to the chamber for a vote – and should that resolution pass – the Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Oversight Committees will have their ongoing investigations officially sanctioned. This gives them more clout when issuing subpoenas and requesting emails and other documents.
Authorizing a Biden Impeachment
To date, these committees have received very little cooperation from federal agencies as they tried to gather information relating to Joe Biden’s knowledge of and involvement in his son’s overseas business dealings while he served as Barack Obama’s vice president. The White House has taken the position that Republican subpoenas are illegitimate in the absence of a vote on the full House floor to authorize impeachment proceedings.
With a paper-thin majority in the House, Republicans have struggled thus far to ensure they have the votes to formalize a Biden impeachment. In 2019, when Democrats went after former President Donald Trump, two Democratic representatives voted against authorizing impeachment, another did not vote, and a fourth voted “present.” Still, Democrats had a large enough majority to move forward.
There is no constitutional requirement for a House vote to authorize impeachment. Democrats began their investigation of Trump well before they brought a vote to the House floor. However, both parties understand that a vote gives the inquiry more legitimacy, particularly if investigators are compelled to go to court to secure documents or witness testimony.
Meanwhile, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), has reportedly been meeting with certain Republicans to try to turn them against a Biden impeachment. In 2019, Raskin led the charge for impeachment of then-President Trump based on no evidence of an impeachable offense. Trump faced two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Likely, Joe Biden also would be accused of abuse of power, though it has not yet been determined what other articles of impeachment he might face, if any. The constitutional standard for removing a president from office is if he (or she) is impeached in the House for and convicted in the Senate of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Given the balances of power in the two chambers of Congress, a Biden impeachment is by no means a sure thing in the House. A conviction in the Senate is highly unlikely – and that is most definitely an understatement.
Also not a sure thing is the Rules Committee sending the Biden impeachment resolution to the House floor. The committee, led by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), currently consists of nine Republicans and four Democrats. This is no party-line matter, though. Republicans will need to be very confident they have the votes in the full chamber.