US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces continued pressure from far-right members of his own Republican Party, despite announcing the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden that many of them wanted.
McCarthy will confront a fractured caucus on Wednesday, a day after he said he would direct House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into “allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption” around the Biden family.
McCarthy conceded to weeks of pressure from GOP hardliners and allies of former President Donald Trump by launching the probe.
But even after the announcement, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz again raised the possibility of removing McCarthy under the terms of a deal that allowed him to become House speaker, which gave any one member the power to call a vote for his removal.
Gaetz said McCarthy could face multiple votes on motions to “vacate the chair” for failing to comply with a secret agreement that allowed him to secure the House’s gavel in January.
“The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you,” Gaetz said in a floor speech on Tuesday addressing McCarthy directly.
It took 15 rounds of voting for McCarthy to become speaker after Republicans narrowly took control of the House in a hard-fought, US midterm election.
The Republican dissenters had presented numerous demands before agreeing to back him, including changing House rules to allow any member to bring a no-confidence vote on the speaker and a bigger say on the House rules and appropriations committees.
This week, Gaetz cited a long list of measures that he said McCarthy had failed to bring forward, including a balanced budget, term limits, the full release of videotapes from the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, and a subpoena of Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Representative Chip Roy, who helped lead negotiations that led to the hardliners’ January agreement with McCarthy, confirmed that the speaker had not moved forward on the items listed by Gaetz.
“We haven’t done that. Period. Full stop. We haven’t done what we agreed to do,” Roy told reporters.
But the Texas Republican shrugged off questions about McCarthy’s future as speaker, saying the focus now is on achieving hardline spending targets and pushing through measures to address the US border with Mexico.
As Congress approaches a September 30 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, House hardliners are pressing McCarthy to avoid any short-term, stopgap spending measure that fails to include border security provisions and other conservative priorities.
Another hardliner, Representative Clay Higgins, said the focus should be on passing appropriations bills that cut spending to a fiscal 2022 level of $1.47 trillion, $120bn less than he agreed to with Biden in May. Centrist Republicans oppose cuts that sharp.
Asked specifically about a motion to remove McCarthy, Higgins said, “Let me say that my colleagues should have deep, deep reflection before they venture down that path.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans have spoken out against this week’s impeachment push, with Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska saying in a statement that the party “cannot use impeachment as a political weapon”.
By unilaterally directing the House committees to launch the impeachment inquiry into Biden, McCarthy sidestepped as many as 20 House Republicans opposed to the action by avoiding a floor vote that would likely have failed.
Still, vocal Republicans have accused the US president, a Democrat, of profiting while he served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 from his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures, though they have not presented any evidence to back up their claims.
The White House immediately condemned Tuesday’s announcement, with spokesman Ian Sams calling it “extreme politics at its worst”.
Democrats also have defended Biden, saying the president did nothing wrong and accusing Republicans of seeking to use the impeachment inquiry to distract from Trump’s legal troubles.
The former Republican president, who remains the frontrunner in the GOP’s 2024 presidential race, faces four separate criminal indictments.
“The Republicans’ forlorn and doomed impeachment inquiry is nothing but a political stunt extracted by extremists and driven by Donald Trump—the truth and the Constitution be damned,” Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.