Speaker Kevin McCarthy has now declared an impeachment inquiry, but his declaration alone might not be enough to quicken the pace. At this phase of the investigation Democrats have one more slow-play tactic they can use – and, oddly enough, they can thank Donald Trump.
The U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to charge or "impeach" a president on the basis that he committed treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. That responsibility was held in such reverence that it was used only twice in American history before House Democrats under (then House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi impeached Trump twice in four years.
In the back-and-forth after Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry in 2019, the Trump administration's Justice Department declared that impeachment inquiries are invalid unless the effort has passed in the House by a formal vote. Pelosi's at the time had not. Now McCarthy's has not.
Republicans have reached this point with careful deliberation and will not fail because of clerical error, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) said on American Family Radio Thursday. The absence of a vote right now, he explains, is strictly a matter of busy days on the House floor.
"Everybody has to recognize we've not precluded a vote on the floor and the Speaker could call one at any time," said Johnson. "As anybody who's paying attention recognizes, we have a fiscal cliff on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. We've got appropriations bills and spending battles and all sorts of debates going on right now on the floor in between votes and everything else."
The Republican lawmaker continued: "There's a lot going on – [so] for the sake of expediency, and because the evidence has taken us to this moment, the speaker stepped out and said, 'Let's go, I declare this is now in the inquiry phase, and let's more forward,'" Johnson told show host Jenna Ellis.
Republicans: Inquiry vote will pass if necessary
Republicans hold a 222-213 margin in the House. Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan told Ellis earlier this week that he's confident a vote will pass at the appropriate time. "The facts are there, and there's a lot of them. That's the key," Jordan stated.
Johnson concurred, arguing that any discussion of the need for a formal House vote on the impeachment inquiry is simply grandstanding.
"It's much ado about nothing. Frankly, Pelosi set the precedent, and they applauded it until the Republicans utilize the same precedent – then it's 'scandalous.' We could call a vote in an afternoon. I don't have any doubt we will have the votes to proceed formally. It's just a matter of floor time. We're managing the clock, and we've got a lot to do here before Sept. 30," he said.
The vote that matters most, however, will be the vote that decides whether Biden becomes America's fourth president to be impeached. Johnson believes that day will come and that Biden will be not only impeached but found guilty in the Senate with bipartisan support – provided enough senators vote on evidence and not preference.
"I expect that I may be one of the managers presenting that case in the Senate. When we do, you will see something very different than what the Democrats did. It will be a very methodical presentation of real hard evidence, not crazy theories and political ideas like they did against Donald Trump," Johnson said. "That evidence is going to be so clear [and] the trail will be so obvious that anyone of good conscience will in good faith have to look at that and say, 'Yes, he's guilty of this.'"
Shoe was on Schumer's other foot last time
Amid cries of "witch hunt" and "revenge" from Democrats, Republicans have maintained that their pursuit of Biden is not politically motivated. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) was quick to attack Republicans on Tuesday, the same day that McCarthy announced the inquiry.
"The impeachment inquiry is absurd. The American people want us to do something that will make their lives better, not go off on these chases, witch hunts," Schumer said at the Democrats' weekly press conference.
It was a different tune for Schumer in 2019 when he accused Trump of a cover-up after military aid was withheld from Ukraine. Schumer went on the offensive then, saying it was important to have witnesses in the impeachment trial to get to the truth.
Johnson vowed Republicans will treat the entire process with great reverence.
"We have to remember that next to a declaration of war, impeachment is probably the most awesome power that Congress has. The idea that you could move to remove a president from office is a big thing, and the founders intended it to be very rarely and carefully used," he explained. "The problem that we have in our minds right now is that the Democrats, of course, completely abused that awesome power by using it as a political weapon against Donald Trump."
A Republican-led impeachment will be different, he said.
"We have to follow the law," said Johnson. "You should do this in a very methodical investigation to line up all the evidence and facts to ensure that they do point you towards impeachment. That's what we've been doing – and it's been very difficult."