WASHINGTON — As House Republicans charge forward with an effort to impeach President Joe Biden, the White House is arguing that they are using the probe as a stunt to evade accountability over a possible government shutdown.
The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday announced it would hold its first impeachment hearing on Sept. 28, days before the government is set to shut down if Congress doesn't pass a funding bill. Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., also said that his committee plans to subpoena personal and business bank records dating back to Biden’s time as vice president and belonging to his son Hunter and brother James, as well as testimony from people who claim the Biden family forged corrupt foreign business deals.
White House officials say that the president’s strategy for now is to let Republicans determine how they plan to move forward. But until that happens, officials said, there is no role for the White House.
The strategy is aimed at trying to make sure Americans see Republicans who are embroiled in impeachment proceedings as responsible for the potential fallout.
To that end, officials have made the case that the president struck a budget agreement with Republicans earlier this year, one that outlined a spending path forward. Republican lawmakers are now walking away from that, they said.
In response to Tuesday's hearing announcement, the White House slammed Republicans and accused them of “staging a political stunt” to divert attention from an effort to slash spending.
The timing of the hearing “reveals their true priorities,” with funding cuts that would furlough workers and jeopardize military salaries, the White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, Ian Sams, said of Republicans.
“Extreme House Republicans are already telegraphing their plans to try to distract from their own chaotic inability to govern and the impacts of it on the country,” Sams said in a statement. “Staging a political stunt hearing in the waning days before they may shut down the government reveals their true priorities: to them, baseless personal attacks on President Biden are more important than preventing a government shutdown and the pain it would inflict on American families.”
Sams continued: “Their shutdown would hurt our economy and national security, furlough thousands of federal workers, and jeopardize everything from troop pay to disaster relief to efforts to fight fentanyl. They are clearly hoping they can use their baseless, evidence-free impeachment stunt to try to divert attention away from the consequences of their extreme agenda, including their current funding proposal to slash tens of thousands of preschool slots nationwide and eliminate thousands of law enforcement jobs.”
Sams said Biden would “remain focused on the issues that matter to the American people, including preventing the devastating and harmful cuts proposed by House Republicans that are hurtling us toward a government shutdown.”
Republicans’ impeachment push has failed to quiet hard-line budget hawks who have said they won’t back a short-term deal to stop a shutdown. On Tuesday, a planned procedural vote to advance a stopgap deal struck between two Republican factions was pulled abruptly, drawing new attention to the party's fractures.
The announcement of the impeachment hearing appears to have set off an alarm bell within the Republican caucus.
A source familiar with the matter said some aides were confused by the committee labeling it an impeachment inquiry hearing, and that it is more accurately described as an Oversight hearing on Hunter Biden, the first such hearing since the inquiry was launched.
“Oversight is going to have an Oversight hearing on Hunter Biden, and this is the first time that we’ve had such hearing since the inquiry was launched,” the source said in an effort to distinguish the hearing from the formal impeachment effort.
Republicans have said they will use the inquiry to surface evidence for what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy claimed was a “culture of corruption” around the president. The White House has denied the allegations.