U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday that lawmakers would launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, advancing an investigation concerning allegations that Biden had benefited from his son Hunter's foreign business dealings.
"These allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption," McCarthy told reporters.
"We have found that President Biden did lie to the American people about his own knowledge of his family's foreign business dealings. Eyewitnesses have testified that the president joined on multiple phone calls and had multiple interactions.
"Dinners resulted in cars and millions of dollars into his son's and his son's business partners," McCarthy said during a press briefing. "We know that bank records show that nearly $20 million in payments were directed to the Biden family members and associates through various shell companies."
McCarthy also alleged Biden used his official office to coordinate those contacts and received special treatment from his own administration.
Representative Scott Perry, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Tuesday, "I think that any other citizen that had against him what the president had stacked up against him right now would already be in court."
Multiple House committees have yet to find evidence supporting those claims.
In a statement Tuesday, Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said, "House Republicans failed to articulate any specific charge against President Biden — because they have no basis whatsoever to launch this so-called inquiry. They have no evidence of misconduct.
"Their whistleblowers have been discredited time and time again. They have not even begun to approach the high bar of high crimes and misdemeanors. And they have done none of the work necessary to convince the American people that this stunt is a good idea."
White House spokesperson Ian Sams tweeted, "House Republicans have been investigating the president for 9 months, and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday: "The American people want us to do something that will make their lives better, not go off on these chases and witch hunts."
He went on to criticize McCarthy for bowing to conservative pressure. "Sometimes you have got to tell these people who are way off the deep end, who have no interest in helping the American people, who just want to pursue their own witch hunts, that they can't go forward with it," Schumer said.
Republicans hold a very slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a five-seat majority. And some Republicans have expressed concern about pursuing an impeachment inquiry heading into the 2024 election year.
Representative Ken Buck, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told NBC News on Sunday, "The time for impeachment is the time when there's evidence linking President Biden — if there's evidence linking President Biden — to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn't exist right now."
The announcement of the inquiry also sets up a showdown between Capitol Hill and the White House, as lawmakers must strike a deal with Biden to keep the government open past a September 30 funding deadline. The House has just a handful of working days in session to pass a short-term continuing resolution or risk a government shutdown.
If there is a government shutdown, House committees would be unable to work on an impeachment inquiry. McCarthy has proposed the continuing resolution to conservatives as a way to keep an impeachment inquiry alive and to buy time to negotiate government spending levels more closely aligned with conservative priorities.
The House speaker faced increasing pressure from conservative members of his caucus this summer after he agreed to a deal with the president to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default.
"It's also possible that those impeachment articles may never reach the Senate," Michael Thorning, director of structural democracy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told VOA. "With a slim majority, it's not clear that Republicans can get it across the finish line. They certainly cannot count on any support from Democrats. And so, they really have to hold together every one of their members. And if they lose just five of them, they won't be able to pass it."
Even if the House passes articles of impeachment, the Democrat-majority Senate is highly unlikely to take them up to hold a trial.
In July, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "Impeachment ought to be rare, rather than common. And so, I'm not surprised that having been treated the way they were, House Republicans last Congress begin to open up the possibility of doing it again. And I think this is not good for the country to have repeated impeachment problems."
McConnell stated Tuesday he did not have advice on the impeachment in the House.
"We've got our hands full here trying to get through the appropriations process," he said.