Voices: Will House Republicans put up or shut up on Hunter Biden?

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (Getty Images)
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (Getty Images)

On Thursday, federal prosecutors indicted President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden on three federal charges after a plea deal fell apart. While the case might be a landmine for the Biden White House, it also poses a host of new challenges for House Republicans as they lay the groundwork for their impeachment inquiry into the president.

When House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that Republicans would open an impeachment inquiry into Mr Biden, they placed the Hunter Biden straight in their crosshairs.

So far, the House GOP, led by the House Oversight Committee and its chairman James Comer (R-KY), has yet to prove that Hunter Biden’s business dealings reached his father when the latter served as vice president, something Democrats have pointed out.

“What I find most amusing is that he has opened an impeachment inquiry, and it seems as though they are opening an inquiry into themselves as to why they're even trying to impeach President Biden,” Rep Alexandrio Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told me on Tuesday.

As the No 2 Democrat on the House Oversight and Committee, she will serve as a key figure pushing back on Republican accusations of wrongdoing by the president.

But Republicans have little time to worry about Democrats when they are still divided amongst themselves about how to go forward with the impeachment.

On one side are conservatives like Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who want an impeachment to happen immediately.

During his speech on the House floor shortly after Mr McCarthy’s speech earlier this week, Mr Gaetz said that Republicans had not pursued Hunter Biden with the same vigor Democrats did Donald Trump’s eldest son Don Jr and brushed off the impeachment inquiry.

“This is a baby step following weeks of pressure from house conservatives to do more,” he said.

Of course, Mr Gaetz has always been most comfortable as a bomb thrower. While he is often associated with and gets along with them, he is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a sign of how he often likes to be a singular figure making noise rather than someone who actually accomplishes conservative goals.

On the other side of the coin are the conservatives who see themselves as moving slower but insist they are moving closer toward impeaching Mr Biden.

Chief among them is Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who the Freedom Caucus kicked out for trash-talking fellow members, but also for her closeness with House Republican leadership. She also lost some more points among conservatives when she voted for the bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit.

Ms Greene always said that impeachment was her price for supporting Mr McCarthy as speaker and the debt limit. When Inside Washington caught up with her on Thursday, she pushed back on Mr Gaetz calling the inquiry a baby step.

“It's a serious impeachment inquiry,” she said. “And we're dedicated to taking as long as we need to take to investigate and get as much information as we need.”

Ms Greene also explained why the House hadn’t subpoenaed Hunter Biden.

“Perhaps that's something that we will be getting to once we get the evidence we need but that hasn't happened yet,” she said.

That mirrors what Mr Comer told The Independent on Thursday shortly after the news of Hunter Biden’s indictment.

“I want to get the bank records first,” he said, adding that once he gets the bank records, the committee will determine whether to subpoena Hunter Biden. “The first question I want to ask Hunter Biden is where did this money come from?”

But those explanations are unlikely to satisfy conservative Republicans who want an impeachment inquiry to begin yesterday.

And that alone explains the difficulty Mr McCarthy faces: he announced the inquiry on Tuesday as a way to pacify conservatives who opposed him in January since they never fully trusted him. But by doing so, he has not satisfied them and they will likely demand more.

On top of that, he will likely catch more grief when he ultimately has to pass a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown from happening on his watch, which could cost Republicans their majority.

There are already signs that he is beginning to crack, with multiple news outlets reporting he told Republicans who want to file a motion to vacate to “move the f**king motion.” Some might imagine they will take that as an invitation if they don’t see the inquiry moving fast enough.