House GOP moderates are lining up behind Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, downplaying the political risks it poses for them even as they benefit from not having to vote on the matter.
A handful of centrist Republicans said Tuesday that opening an official probe gives GOP-led committees greater latitude in their investigations and argued that launching a probe does not guarantee articles of impeachment will be brought to the floor.
But the creation of an inquiry will almost certainly set the wheels in motion for a future vote on articles of impeachment against the president, a reality that could be difficult for moderate Republicans down the road, particularly those in districts Biden carried in 2020.
“I think we’ve got enough substantiation for it to move forward, we’ve got critical mass,” said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), who represents a district Biden carried by nearly 13 points in 2020. “What I tell my constituents is we seek clarity, right, I think that’s what most Americans want is clarity. So let’s go get all the facts and data behind it. We’ve gotten some, but not everything that we want to see.”
“I didn’t come here to impeach anybody, but the responsibility of Congress is to provide the appropriate checks and balances and that next step is now moving forward in a broader inquiry,” said Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), who also hails from a Biden-won district. “There clearly are questions of impropriety, and we want to be sure that we’re getting answers, and I think the American people deserve that as well.”
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), another first-term congressman who represents a district Biden took last cycle, said he is “eager” to dig into allegations made against the president and his family.
“I’ve spent my career as an NYPD detective and know the value of seeking the truth through finding the facts, and I am eager to find out exactly what the truth is behind the allegations surrounding President Biden and his family,” he said.
To be sure, not all moderates are publicly expressing approval. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who came out against an impeachment inquiry last month, re-upped that position Tuesday while saying he still thinks McCarthy should have held a formal vote to launch the probe.
“I think there’s corruption there, but to do an inquiry you should have some kind of direct evidence towards the president. I think that we’re close, so I’m not opposed to never doing it, but I just think we should set a high bar,” he said.
McCarthy announced Tuesday that he was directing House committees to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden based on GOP-led investigations into his family’s foreign business dealings and the prosecution of Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Republicans have not proven that the president personally benefited financially from his family’s business dealings, but lawmakers have highlighted a number of conflict of interest issues and accused the president of being dishonest when talking about how much he discussed business with his son.
The decision came after weeks of McCarthy publicly flirting with the prospect of opening a formal probe.
But in a reversal from previous comments, the Speaker launched the inquiry without holding a vote. Earlier this month, he told Breitbart News in a statement, “if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
McCarthy’s announcement Tuesday does not prevent the House from bringing the matter to the floor in the future, which GOP aides said could happen. But it does protect moderates, at least for the time being, from a difficult vote that could find them at odds with some of their left-leaning constituents.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who calls herself a centrist, spoke to those concerns last month.
“It’s always, always a concern, especially for Republicans who won Biden districts,” Mace said when asked by Fox News’s Neil Cavuto about concerns over Republicans appearing to be overreaching.
But a handful of moderates brushed aside those concerns Tuesday.
“I’m not actually relieved, I was hoping to have a vote so we can have these conversations and explain to the constituents the value, proposition behind this,” Garcia said when asked if he was relieved that McCarthy did not hold a vote.
He said he would have voted to open an inquiry.
“That’s the great fallacy. There seems to be this national narrative that people in swing districts don’t want accountability and truth,” Garcia said. “That’s not the case. There’s a reason why I still win in a district that Biden won in 13 percent. It’s a rational thing.”
Garcia also rejected the notion that the move to launch an inquiry likely means a later vote on articles of impeachment.
“I think if we have open hearings and with testimony and evidence brought forward and there’s no clear nexus to the vice president or when he was senator, and there’s no other, you know, lying, you know, anything that would substantiate an impeachment charge — if we don’t have that, we’re not gonna vote for it,” he said.
One Biden-district Republican who requested anonymity to discuss the matter candidly said the question of whether to open an impeachment inquiry “wasn’t as painful.”
They said the residents of their district have “seen corruption, and so when there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and they want — they expect — that we’re going to see what’s the source of the flame.”
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who’s embroiled in a House Ethics Committee investigation and separately faces federal charges regarding his financial disclosures and for his representation of campaign fund allocations to donors, said Wednesday that McCarthy’s move was “a step in the right direction.”
“Going into an impeachment inquiry, and from that inquiry, we can draw conclusions or not whether it warrants an impeachment. That’s been my position. You can’t cheapen the process. You can’t jump to the final action without actually [showing], how did you get there?” said Santos, one of 18 House Republicans representing a House seat President Biden won in 2020.
Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.), another one of the 18, seemed to endorse a House impeachment inquiry into Biden in a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Is Joe Biden a crook? The only way to know is to get the immediate and full cooperation of the DOJ, FBI, & Treasury. The American people want answers to these mounting allegations and eyewitness reports,” Williams wrote. “This inquiry will be held in full view of the public and not behind closed doors.”
More than a dozen Republicans will be defending their seats in districts Biden won last presidential cycle. Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, with Democrats only needing to net five seats in 2024 to flip the lower chamber.
Asked whether an impeachment inquiry could complicate the chances for Republicans in Biden-won districts to win reelection, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told The Hill, “the impeachment inquiry is another example of extreme MAGA Republicans doing nothing to improve the lives of the American people, and continuing to simply just bend the knee to the extreme right-wing ideology.”
“And the moderate Republicans who pretend to be moderate are gonna be held accountable,” he added.