House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced this morning that the House will open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, setting the stage for a bitter and deeply partisan battle this fall.
But unlike in most previous impeachment processes, McCarthy is choosing not to hold an official vote on opening the inquiry, seemingly because too many moderate Republicans might have balked and sunk the effort. That means that individual Republican House members can play their cards close to their chest on impeachment, at least for now.
Of New Jersey’s three House Republicans, two of them, Reps. Chris Smith (R-Manchester) and Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), are openly supportive of the inquiry. But the third, swing-district Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), is staying mum.
Asked today for his thoughts on McCarthy’s announcement, Smith said that the committees tasked with investigating Biden thus far have turned up enough evidence against the president for an impeachment inquiry to be necessary.
“I think there’s enough to warrant an investigation,” Smith said.
Smith, who is regarded as a moderate Republican on most issues, added that he feels the case for an inquiry into Biden is stronger than the 2019 and 2021 impeachments of former President Donald Trump, both of which Smith voted against.
“With the [first Trump impeachment], the more you probed, the less there was,” he said. “There wasn’t even smoke anywhere, so there’s no fire.”
Van Drew has publicly called for impeaching Biden many times, so his strong support for an impeachment inquiry was never up in the air. The congressman, who defected from the Democratic Party in 2019 over his opposition to Trump’s first impeachment, said as early as April that the House should impeach “crooked” Joe Biden, sentiments he echoed today.
“The allegations are staggering and the evidence is mounting against Joe Biden,” Van Drew wrote on Twitter earlier today. “I fully supported an impeachment inquiry months ago, and I fully support it now.”
As for Kean, whose re-election campaign in the 7th congressional district next year is likely to be one of the most closely watched in the country, he declined to comment one way or the other.
“It’s good to see you, my friend,” Kean told the New Jersey Globe, and nothing more.
New Jersey Democrats, of course, are virulently opposed to the inquiry. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) called it “baseless” and a sign that McCarthy has handed over power to the far-right, while Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) said it shows that “House Republicans are unfit to govern America and do not give a damn about the American people.”
The state Democratic Party also weighed in, saying the inquiry will have political consequences and noting its behind-the-scenes ties to Trump.
“President Biden and Democrats in Congress will continue working to improve the economy and solve real problems for the American people,” State Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones said. “And New Jersey voters will remember in November 2024 that Tom Kean, Chris Smith, and Jeff Van Drew put the interests of Donald Trump over the interests of the people of New Jersey.”
The inquiry represents a continuation of several investigations House Republicans have already been pursuing into supposed corruption and wrongdoing in the Biden family. Those investigations have yet to turn up anything concretely incriminating for the president, but McCarthy said an impeachment inquiry is still needed.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,” McCarthy said at a press conference this morning. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
The inquiry’s opening may temporarily satisfy the House Republican caucus’s right wing, which has made impeaching Biden a central focus. But it also presents a political challenge for moderate Republicans like Kean, many of whom represent districts that Biden won in 2020, if voters believe the inquiry is politically motivated.
For now, the lack of a direct roll-call vote allows those moderates to remain on the sidelines. If articles of impeachment do eventually come up for a vote, however, that luxury will disappear.