Briefings: Ways & Means (and Neal) Back on the Impeachment Treadmill…
With attempts to tie President Joe Biden to his prodigal son sputtering, the Republican US House of Representatives is upgrading its investigation to an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that he was formally charging committees with commencing a probe that could produce articles of impeachment.
Exactly what wrongdoing they intend to pin on the president is unclear. However, the three committees that will lead the inquiry are Reps Jim Jordan, James Comer and Jason Smith. They are chairs, respectively, of Judiciary, Oversight & Accountability, and Ways & Means. That also means that Springfield Congressman Richard Neal, as ranking member of Ways & Means, will have a front seat view of the probe. Neal is not exactly thrilled about it.
“It’s an inquiry without any foundation in reality, and solely based on Republican political pipedreams,” Neal said in a statement. “Yet again, this Republican majority is showing the American people that they don’t have their backs, they have no interest in governing, and they will do anything at the command of their most extreme members.”
The panel’s top Democrat went on to note the inquiry sits upon debunked theories and comes at the expense of developing legislation to solve problems.
In some ways, Neal finds himself in a situation similar to one when he was chair of Ways & Means. In 2019, his committee had opened an investigation into presidential tax returns generally and requested the only tax records of a president that had never seen the light of day. This prompted a long-running court battle. The litigation only concluded after several courts concluded his committee could have them pursuant to a Jazz Age oversight law.
While that was going on, Trump tried extort Ukraine into opening an investigation into…Joe Biden. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demurred. The revelation of Trump’s phone call’s prompted his first impeachment. Neal was among the committee chairs then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi deputized during the impeachment process due to his tax return review.
The posture of Ways & Means differs under the current chair, Smith, a Missouri Republican, though. As the committee already has jurisdiction over the Internal Revenue Service, Smith has been fishing for evidence that Hunter Biden received special treatment and by extension whether Joe Biden ordered it.
That Smith’s invesigation has found bupkes is less relevant than that at its center was a presumption of specific misdeeds. While Democrats aired many allegations about Trump’s tax returns, Neal’s probe did not turn on them. But as ranking member, Neal has seen Smith’s efforts up close.
“Since January, House Republicans have uncovered an overwhelming amount of evidence showing President Joe Biden lied to the American people about his knowledge and participation in his family’s influence peddling schemes,” Smith said in a joint statement with Comer and Jordan.
While it seems almost certain Hunter Biden traded on his sons name, Republicans have not produced evidence President Biden sanctioned or knew about it. The statement references IRS agents who claim the Justice Department frustrated efforts to look into Hunter Biden’s finances. The Justice Department disputes this. This is the same Hunter Biden who almost pleaded to tax charges and whom the feds will likely indict imminently.
Few buy the stated reasons for expanding the investigation, however. Congress already has robust investigatory powers and the House. Indeed, Neal’s quest for Trump’s taxes proceeded apace regardless of Trump’s impeachment status.
Rather, it appears to be Speaker McCarthy’s attempt to keep dancing on a pinhead with a narrow GOP majority. His caucus’ far right was upset about the deal McCarthy had cut with President Biden. The same members are demanding the government pass appropriations well below what McCarthy agreed to. A government shutdown at the end of September is possible.
Hence, McCarthy’s impeachment striptease. Certainly, the speaker has given Democrats the impression Tuesday’s announcement was nothing more than that.
“It’s more naked partisanship and stoops below the stature of the Congress,” Neal said.