Republicans in the US House of Representatives took a procedural step on Thursday toward voting to authorise their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, an escalation of a Republican probe the White House has dismissed as baseless.
House Republicans accuse the Democratic president and his family of improperly profiting from policy decisions Biden participated in as vice president during President Barack Obama's 2009-2017 administration.
They have also accused the US Department of Justice of inappropriately interfering with an investigation into Biden's businessman son Hunter Biden. The Justice Department denies wrongdoing.
Republican Representative Kelly Armstrong on Thursday introduced a 14-page resolution that would allow the full House to vote on authorising the probe.
It was not immediately clear when the resolution would go to the floor for a vote in the full House. Representatives for House Speaker Mike Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.
House Republicans have so far failed to produce evidence tying Biden's actions as vice president to his son's businesses, and it is unlikely that the Senate, where Biden's Democratic Party holds a slim majority, would vote to convict the president if the House did pass articles of impeachment.
"Voting to launch an impeachment inquiry will not change the fact that, following many months of endless investigation by House Republicans (during) this Congress and by Senate Republicans in 2020, the evidence plainly shows no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden, much less an impeachable offence," said Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
The inquiry has been cheered on by former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to take on Biden in the 2024 election and the only president in US history to be impeached twice. The Senate acquitted Trump both times, failing to reach the two-thirds threshold required to convict.
WHITE HOUSE DISMISSES PROBE
The White House has dismissed the probe of Biden as a partisan exercise by House Republicans.
"This baseless stunt is not rooted in facts or reality but in extreme House Republicans' shameless desire to abuse their power to smear President Biden," said White House spokesperson Ian Sams.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy opened the inquiry on Sept 12, following months of congressional investigations into the president and his family. An inquiry is a preliminary step before passing articles of impeachment.
Since the announcement of the inquiry, the House Oversight Committee has conducted one public hearing. That committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have also interviewed several officials and have issued subpoenas for Biden's family's financial records and demanded testimony from members of Biden's family, some business associates and other officials.
Hunter Biden has said he would testify publicly, but House Republicans have insisted on a closed-door deposition before public testimony. On Wednesday, they threatened to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress if he did not appear for the Dec 13 deposition.
The younger Biden has talked publicly about his struggles with addictions to drugs and alcohol. The first child of a sitting president to be prosecuted for a crime, he has pleaded not guilty to charges filed by US Special Counsel David Weiss that he lied about his drug use while buying a firearm.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told reporters on Monday that the vote was necessary to give Republicans more leverage if there was a possible court fight.
The Biden administration has pointed to a so-called slip opinion submitted during Trump's first impeachment that an impeachment inquiry did not have the proper authorization without a vote in the House.