Biden under scrutiny: House Republicans gear up investigations of the president

  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-05 10:00:11Z

WASHINGTON -  One political party controls the U.S. House and the other party holds the presidency - so you know what that means.

It's time to investigate the president again.

As with previous Congresses, the newly empowered House Republicans are engaged in a plethora of probes of President Joe Biden and his allies, from border security and the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal to Joe Biden's classified documents and son Hunter Biden's laptop.

To the Republicans, it's about oversight of the executive branch. "This administration needs checks and balances - any administration needs checks and balances," said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who will be supervising many of the investigations as chair of the House Oversight Committee.

Aides to Biden, as with previous presidents, see it as something else: politics designed to hurt the incumbent ahead of an election year. While White House officials have pledged to cooperate with Republican investigators, they are also organized and prepared to respond to what they regard as unfair inquiries.

Battle of the government branches: After a turbulent January, House GOP focuses back on Biden with slate of investigations

At a meeting on Nov.
At a meeting on Nov.  

Here are some of the things to look for in the months ahead:

Aggressive Republicans

Republican investigators take a big public step Wednesday when the House Oversight Committee holds a hearing on how Twitter handled news reports of Hunter Biden's laptop, which included some of his business records - the morning after Biden delivers his State of the Union message.

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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, cited the GOP's investigation into the so-called "weaponization of the federal government" by telling reporters: "We'll issue the subpoenas and try to get the information, documents that we need."

GOP risk from the right

Republicans are planning any number of public hearings, and most will be traditional in nature, with a series of opening statements by committee members and questioning of witnesses.

There's no indication, yet, that the GOP will follow the approach of last year's special committee investigating the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. That committee hired a former television executive who orchestrated made-for-TV hearings featuring dramatic video of the riot and witness depositions.

It's classified: House Republicans launch investigations into Biden's handling of classified documents

The MTG factor

The upcoming hearings will also test how much attention the Republicans are paying to  conspiracy theories regarding Biden and his family and allies. Some GOP members may also use the hearings to promote the 2024 campaign of former President Donald Trump.

Some ultra-conservative members, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have been calling for Biden's impeachment since he began his term two years ago.


Greene and other Republicans have also called for impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, another target of GOP investigations over border security.

Republicans with subpoenas: Biden's most vocal Republican antagonists emerge from the sidelines - with subpoena power

McCarthy's dilemma

Numerous congressional Republicans campaigned on pledges to thoroughly investigate Biden, but their efforts could complicate other parts of the GOP agenda.

That means new GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy must walk a tightrope between working with Democrats to get things done and giving conservative hardliners enough Biden-related red meat so he can get bills through his narrow Republican majority.

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It could be especially challenging for Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Ind., the congressman tasked with corralling the votes in a Republican caucus that can only lose four and still get legislation passed.

"With a narrow majority, it's about every voice," he told USA TODAY. "Every issue can be challenging."

Biden and the Democrats: defense and offense

Like previous administrations, the Biden White House has set up a team of aides to monitor the Republican investigations, a group that includes members of the White House counsel's office and communications staff, according to administration officials. They have been working with Democratic members of Congress for months, preparing defenses and potential counter-attacks.

A team of White House communications, legislative and legal staff members has also been working with federal agencies throughout the administration since the summer of 2022 to prepare for Republican-led investigations, officials said. And a White House team has been mapping out possible GOP lines of investigation, as well.

Outside Democratic groups are also helping Biden's cause.

One organization, called Facts First USA, said it plans to monitor the investigations and speak out publicly to "keep the focus on facts in the face of abuse of government oversight being used to settle partisan scores."

David Brock, president of Facts First USA, said that, as with previous investigations of presidents, Republican overkill will be used against them when election time rolls around.

"The public understands this is a political exercise," Brock told USA TODAY.

House Democrats speak out

House Democrats see a silver lining to GOP attacks on the president: They could help his party win again in 2024.

Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democratic ally from Biden's native Pennsylvania and the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said investigations of previous Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama wound up in many ways backfiring against the Republicans.

Clinton and Obama both won re-election.

"What failed in the 90s and the last decade will fail again this year," Boyle said to USA TODAY.

A long history

The Biden investigations are only the latest act in a long-running political play.

Even President George Washington, the very first president, saw one of his generals investigated by Congress for poor performance.

Over the decades, investigations have covered any number of historic events: Abraham Lincoln and the conduct of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant and government corruption, Richard Nixon and Watergate, and Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra affair.

Douglas Kriner, a political science professor at Cornell University who has written on this topic, said investigations have often addressed significant policy disputes, but have also had "political overtones."

"Politics has always been a key part of the game," he said.

A polarizing era

Politically divided government has been frequent over the past half-century, fueling polarization as party members side with their team over all else.

These tensions have inevitably seeped into investigations, including the impeachments of Clinton and Trump.

Claire Leavitt, an assistant professor of government at Smith College who studies congressional oversight, said that "the number of investigations increases significantly under divided government." She added that "this trend applies exclusively to the past 30 years."

Watching the polls

As Republicans proceed with investigations of Biden, members of both parties will be keeping sharp eyes on voter opinion.

A Pew Research Center survey this week said that 65% of respondents are "more concerned that Republicans in Congress will focus too much on investigating the Biden administration, while 32% are more concerned that congressional Republicans will focus too little on this."

At the same time, the Republicans are being pressured by base voters. The same Pew poll said that "56% of Republicans and Republican leaners say they are more concerned that their party's representatives in Congress will not focus enough on investigating the administration."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden under scrutiny as House Republicans gear up probes


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