Texas congressional Democrats say impeaching Biden is “not comparable” to Trump impeachments

Rep. Kevin McCarthy is seen on the House floor on the first day of the 118th Congress on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The House adjourned without a speaker voted in. (Michael A. Mccoy For Texas Tribune, Michael A. Mccoy For Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — Republicans backing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden insist it’s only fair after months of investigations and President Donald Trump’s two impeachments.

But Texas Democrats who worked on Trump’s impeachments recoil at the comparison.

“All they're doing is making Donald Trump happy. They have made themselves the investigatory arm of the Donald Trump campaign and they're trying to do what I would consider just to be plain old payback,” Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said in an interview.

Garcia served as a manager in Trump’s first impeachment trial following House charges that he abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden ahead of the 2020 election.

“The impeachments of Donald Trump started after serious investigations – first after Trump tried to extort Ukraine for political favors, and second after he incited a deadly insurrection,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a statement. “Those were serious crimes that presented a threat to our Republic. This stuff with Hunter Biden is not comparable.”

Castro served as a manager in Trump’s 2021 impeachment trial after the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

McCarthy announced his plans Tuesday to launch an impeachment inquiry, saying it was the “logical next step” after months of probing by House Republicans into the Biden family.

The investigations have so far yet to turn up evidence of the president’s direct involvement in any of his son’s dealings to a degree that would violate the law.

Nonetheless, House Republicans have described a “culture of corruption” where the president’s son, Hunter Biden, used his name and ties to his father to advance his business interests.

"It's exactly what we want to know, the answers, and I believe the President would want to answer these questions and allegations as well,” McCarthy told reporters outside of his Capitol office.

Garcia contrasted McCarthy’s impeachment probe with the slow, methodical lead up to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump in 2019. Despite months of pleas from her progressive peers to impeach Trump, Pelosi held off on pulling the trigger until a phone call went public revealing Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Biden in exchange for military aid.

“The Republicans are facing a real credibility problem with the public because everybody heard the phone call,” Garcia said. “This one, it's like, there's been nothing. There has been absolutely nothing that ties the president to any of the things that they're even suggesting of Hunter Biden.”

McCarthy is a politically tight spot. He must maintain the confidence of a fractured, miniscule majority in the House, with a vocal far-right faction demanding impeachment as well as a host of policy concessions before passing legislation to keep the federal government funded. Meanwhile, many moderate and swing-district Republicans feared an impeachment vote could alienate them with voters in next year’s elections.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has previously shown a tepid attitude toward impeachment, questioning how successful an effort would be with next to no chance the Democratic-controlled Senate would vote to convict Biden.

“I don’t think the House particularly cares what members of the Senate think,” he told CNN before McCarthy’s announcement. “If they actually do it, then our responsibility kicks in. But I’m not going to speculate about what they ultimately will do. I know there are some differences of opinion.” Cornyn’s office directed a request for comment on McCarthy’s Tuesday announcement to the senator’s remarks to CNN.

An impeachment inquiry would escalate the investigations, but it does not guarantee articles of impeachment will be filed.

Several Texas Republicans issued resounding endorsements of the effort.

“The walls are closing in on the Biden Family,” U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, a member of the Judiciary Committee, posted on social media. “I'm looking forward to joining the impeachment inquiry.” The impeachment inquiry will be led by House Oversight Chair James Comer of Kentucky, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith of Missouri.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been one of the most vocal supporters of an impeachment. For months on his podcast, he has accused Biden of corruptly using his offices to benefit his family and deceiving investigators to cover it up.

“The weight of evidence that Joe Biden received bribes from Ukrainian oligarchs and Chinese Communist Party officials is overwhelming,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday. “The House is doing the right thing by opening this impeachment inquiry.”

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, called an inquiry the “next step toward accountability.” U.S. Rep. Morgan Luttrell, R-Willis, said the inquiry will allow House Republicans to “gather hard line evidence that cannot be refuted.”

“This Congress has exposed serious wrongdoing — it is now time to formalize our investigation to fight Democrat stonewalling,” U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R-San Angelo, said in a statement.

In a social media post, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, outlined the findings of his party’s investigations, including contacts by Hunter Biden and payments he dubbed “suspicious.”

“An impeachment inquiry will allow House Republicans to get the facts. If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t oppose a fact-finding mission” he added.

But Democrats retort that Republicans have had years to investigate Biden, poring over thousands of documents, and have yet to find malfeasance on the part of the president. Republicans already have control over the House majority and could therefore use committee subpoena power.

“Today, under Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, Congress is less than three weeks out from a government shutdown and Republicans are talking about impeaching Joe Biden instead of doing their jobs,” Castro said. “Today’s announcement is a pretty transparent attempt to distract people from the fact that Congressional Republicans have done absolutely nothing to address the issues Americans care about.”

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