Hunter Biden demands public hearing, defying House GOP subpoena

Hunter Biden showed up on Capitol Hill on Wednesday but said he planned to testify in a public hearing, escalating a standoff with GOP investigators.

President Joe Biden’s son has insisted, through his attorney, that he wants to testify publicly and not in a private meeting. Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) has denied that request, demanding Hunter Biden sit for a closed-door deposition Wednesday.

“I'm here today to answer at a public hearing any legitimate questions Chairman Comer and the House Oversight Committee may have for me,” Hunter Biden told reporters.

“Republicans do not want an open process,” he added.

The two Republicans leading the investigation — Comer and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — have threatened to start contempt of Congress proceedings against Hunter Biden if he did not appear for the deposition.

With the House leaving town this week until January, that expected fight is likely to drag into next year. And Comer and Jordan need near unanimity among the House GOP to ultimately hold the younger Biden in contempt of Congress, though even if they clear that hurdle, there’s no guarantee the Justice Department would ultimately decide to prosecute him.

It was unclear even into Wednesday morning whether Hunter Biden would appear for the deposition. GOP investigators subpoenaed Hunter Biden in November for a closed-door meeting, but his attorney, Abbe Lowell, responded that the president’s son was willing to testify in a public hearing.

House Republicans countered that they would videotape the deposition and quickly release a transcript of the interview, in a failed bid to assuage Lowell’s concerns that Hunter Biden’s testimony would be selectively leaked or mischaracterized. Democrats have criticized Comer, in particular, for not releasing transcripts for several closed-door interviews and rejecting Hunter Biden’s offer to interview publicly.

“What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

In addition to Hunter Biden, GOP investigators have subpoenaed several individuals including James Biden, Joe Biden’s brother, and Rob Walker, a Hunter Biden business associate. Republicans have said lawyers for both are in talks with committee staff. They’ve also requested voluntary interviews with other family members.

But Republicans view Hunter Biden as a top target in their sweeping impeachment inquiry aimed at the president. The House is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday to formalize that inquiry, which was launched back in September.

Top Republicans believe only one GOP member will vote no on that: retiring Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). They’ve managed to chip away at opposition from centrists and vulnerable Republicans in Biden-won districts.

Formalizing the inquiry is expected to give Republicans more legal power as they look to enforce their demands for documents and interviews. Though the White House has defended its level of cooperation with the investigation, officials have also pointed back to a Trump-era Justice Department opinion to argue that the inquiry, and subpoenas stemming from it, lack legitimacy without a formal vote to legitimize.

Republicans’ top potential legal targets include two Justice Department tax officials and a former White House counsel, each of whom they’ve requested interviews with. But Comer added that he believed the resolution could also help with their ongoing battle with Hunter Biden, noting that his counsel had previously “implied that this wasn’t a legitimate investigation.”

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House GOP nears decision on Biden impeachment articles

House Republicans are closing in on a make-or-break moment in their drive to impeach Joe Biden, with GOP centrists remaining highly skeptical of the effort even as its leaders look to decide in January on whether to file formal articles against the president.

Even with a planned deposition of Hunter Biden in the coming weeks, the party remains in a tense spot, with centrists signaling that the party’s investigation hasn’t yet met their bar for an impeachment vote and the right flank ratcheting up pressure to move forward.

It's all building to a decision on whether to pursue impeachment articles as soon as January. Republicans would likely accuse the president of improperly using his political office to further his family’s business dealings — though they haven’t yet found a smoking gun to that effect and some members acknowledge that seems increasingly unlikely. Impeachment advocates are still probing other issues as well, such as the federal investigation that resulted in a failed plea deal for Hunter Biden.

“We get those depositions done this year and … then we can decide on whether or not there’s articles,” House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told POLITICO, predicting that decision would happen early next year.

But a familiar obstacle for Republicans stands in their way here, too: their thin majority. Though Republicans can draft and file articles without a locked-in whip count, impeachment backers will need near unanimity to actually recommend booting Biden from office, since it's virtually assured no Democrat would vote to impeach Biden.

Ending an impeachment inquiry without a vote — or a failed one — would be an embarrassing political setback both for hardliners and Speaker Mike Johnson, who conservatives view as their ally on the issue. But centrists remain unconvinced that impeachment is necessary, and what’s more, that group has grown increasingly willing to buck leadership after the three-week speaker fight and with 2024 drawing closer.

“Any kind of an impeachment puts our Biden people in a really tough spot,” a GOP lawmaker involved in the investigation, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said in an interview. “Impeachment hurts us politically — it makes our base feel better.”

Republicans are aware that the deeper they go into 2024 the larger the shadow of the upcoming election looms, both for Biden and their own vulnerable members. And there's no guarantee any potential political benefits of keeping the conversation in the spotlight into the presidential election will negate the added pressure on Biden-district Republicans.

“We understand that the further you go toward an election, the more politicized these conversations become. That’s why it’s all the more important for us to begin to take action sooner rather than later,” said Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Jordan estimated that he and Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) have a dozen to 15 interviews they still want to finish by the end of the year. At least one of those interviews is likely to spill over into January: Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, who purchased Hunter Biden artwork. Jordan, Comer and Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) also briefed Johnson on the status of their Biden investigations last week.

And more fights on that front could further drag out the inquiry. Comer has said that he wants to hold individuals who don’t comply with the subpoenas in contempt, though he acknowledged that it’s a decision for the conference. If anyone in Republicans' final batch of interviews fights a subpoena in court, that could tee off a lengthy legal challenge.

Not to mention, decisions on impeachment could easily run into a pair of government funding deadlines in mid-January and early February. But conservatives are eager to move the impeachment effort to its next phase, with the Judiciary Committee expected to take the lead on drafting any formal articles.

“I think it needs to move with alacrity. I’ve always felt that we should be able to move faster. … But I do anticipate that it comes to Judiciary soon,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), a member of that panel.

Republicans are months into their sweeping investigation into the Biden family. They’ve poked holes in some of Joe Biden's and the White House’s previous statements and found examples of Hunter Biden trading on his family name, including invoking his father to try to bolster his own influence. But they’ve struggled to find a direct link that shows Biden took official actions as president or vice president to benefit his family’s business deals.

But Republicans aren't putting all their bets on the one basket. They've hinted that they could also draw obstruction allegations into the impeachment articles, citing any refusal by the Biden administration to cooperate.

Meanwhile, Democrats and the White House are already previewing their rebuttal to that potential charge. They've cited a Trump-era Justice Department opinion that states investigative steps and subpoenas initiated so far aren’t valid because Republicans never held a formal vote to start the inquiry — and are likely to point back to fulfilled records requests and interviews.

“House Republicans have already spent a year on their expensive and time-consuming so-called ‘investigation’ and they’ve turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden. In fact, their own witnesses and the thousands of pages of documents they’ve obtained have repeatedly debunked their false allegations,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement to POLITICO.

GOP lawmakers have also pointed to unproven allegations of bribery as a potential focus of impeachment articles, though they are facing doubt from some colleagues that they will be able to find the kind of direct evidence that shows Joe Biden participated in the sort of “pay for play” scandal that conservatives accuse him of. Oversight Committee Republicans also argued in a memo earlier this year that they didn’t need to show direct payments to Joe Biden to prove “corruption.”

The House GOP has also touted two payments from James Biden to Joe Biden — one for $200,000 and another for $40,000 — as evidence of “money laundering” and the president benefiting from his family’s business deals. The checks from James Biden are earmarked as loan repayments and the White House has said they were a loan, an idea contested by Republicans. Both payments came a month or two after an account that appears to be associated with Joe Biden, based on records reviewed by POLITICO, wired James Biden both $200,000 and $40,000.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a closed-caption video with some Chinese national handing Joe Biden the bank money,” the GOP lawmaker who was granted anonymity said, acknowledging the impeachment case would ride on a “mountain of circumstantial evidence.” But, they argued, some federal prosecutions had been built on similar bases.

Centrists have credited the GOP investigations with uncovering new evidence about Biden family business dealings and raised questions about Biden himself. But they’ve also warned leadership that they don’t want to move forward on a vote without a “smoking gun.” Johnson, during a recent meeting with that faction of the conference, indicated that he wasn’t yet ready to pull the trigger on impeachment, but that they should keep following the evidence, according to two Republicans in the meeting.

Still, that sparked quick pushback from his right flank, who worried that Johnson was trying to quietly pull the plug on impeachment. In a statement late last week that appeared aimed at trying to clear the air, Johnson said the GOP investigators “have my full and unwavering support.”

“Now, the appropriate step is to place key witnesses under oath and question them under the penalty of perjury, to fill gaps in the record,” Johnson said, adding that Republicans are moving “toward an inflection point in this critical investigation.”

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House GOP cools on Mayorkas impeachment fever

House Republicans once regarded Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as their easiest impeachment target. Yet even that seems increasingly out of reach.

Centrist Republicans were never quite sold on impeaching the secretary over problems at the border, nor aligned with their colleagues’ belief that Mayorkas lied to lawmakers at a committee hearing. Now, some of the most vocal Republicans pushing to remove him are acknowledging they're finding GOP skeptics virtually immovable.

Even Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who thrilled conservatives last year when he opened the door to impeachment proceedings, is signaling he’s still not convinced.

“The only time you use impeachment is if someone has done something that rises to impeachment,” McCarthy told POLITICO, noting that committees are still investigating Mayorkas.

It’s a sign McCarthy hasn’t totally bowed to his conservative wing, even as he's feeding their hopes of potential impeachment inquiries into Attorney General Merrick Garland and President Joe Biden. But centrists and their allies across the conference, already bearish about Mayorkas efforts, are even less enthusiastic about actually attempting to boot those two from office. They’ve supported investigations but have warned that actually taking those votes without proof of wrongdoing could mean the party loses the House next term.

On paper, there are also plenty of reasons a Mayorkas impeachment could still be in play. Border crossing arrests increased in July, though a DHS spokesperson noted illegal crossings generally remain lower compared to recent months. And a key committee investigating Mayorkas is preparing to roll out its findings this fall, which could fold into any impeachment effort. Behind the scenes, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and others have lobbied leadership and their colleagues to move forward for months.

Rep. Chip Roy questions Mayorkas during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill July 26, 2023.

“Some of my colleagues get hung up on high crimes and misdemeanors in a way that they don’t want to take that step with respect to Mayorkas. I disagree,” said Roy, a prominent member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

But other House Republicans acknowledge that, anecdotally, they aren’t hearing as much about the idea of impeaching Mayorkas from their colleagues. And Roy, though he insisted they’ve made progress, admitted the votes just might not exist in the narrow House majority.

“We have what — a majority of three, or four or five depending on the day and people’s health? So, if there’s a handful of people that don’t cross the line, that’s where we are,” he said.

The Republicans who aren’t yet on board include members of the Judiciary Committee itself — a huge stumbling block to even beginning impeachment proceedings. And even some conservatives aren't backing the efforts.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Freedom Caucus, said that a recent hearing with Mayorkas didn’t sway him toward supporting impeachment. He remains unconvinced that booting Mayorkas is a necessary step, and summed up the impeachment chatter within the conference as a “new shiny object every week.”

“Think about it — you replace Mayorkas with another Biden appointee,” Buck said, adding that impeachment is “a rare occurrence. It’s supposed to be.”

Even if impeachment supporters were able to get articles out of the committee, they face questions about their ability to win the near-unanimous support they'd need from the broader conference.

A GOP lawmaker, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly, said the effort to impeach Mayorkas had died down “some.” The Republican added that while they remained undecided on impeaching Mayorkas, and believe the administration has made bad policy choices on the border, "incompetence isn’t an impeachable offense.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who has been perennially skeptical about trying to boot Mayorkas, said he wasn’t hearing much about it from his colleagues. He added that impeaching Mayorkas wouldn’t ultimately change the administration’s border strategy.

“In the end, what are you going to get?” Bacon asked. “You’re going to get Biden’s policies.”

Still, Mayorkas' staunchest critics have multiple trip wires they believe could force the issue back into the spotlight.

One example is the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, which Roy is eyeing as a potential leverage point. He's vowed to oppose any spending bills that fund the Department of Homeland Security without enacting immigration and border reforms, and he considers impeaching Mayorkas as one of those necessary changes.

“I think the case has been made. And I think we are going to see a pretty big fight play out between now and Sept. 30 about what the next steps are with respect to dealing with the border,” Roy said.

Republicans are also months deep into multiple investigations focused on Mayorkas, the border and the department writ large, which could come to a head in the back half of the year. The party has used a series of Judiciary Committee hearings to try to make their case against Mayorkas, including the secretary’s July appearance before the panel.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — who has said Mayorkas deserves to be impeached — outlined additional data he wanted from the department at the end of the hearing. Another member of the panel, Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), is holding a joint field hearing Tuesday on “Biden’s border crisis.”

But Biggs, who has already introduced impeachment articles against Mayorkas, acknowledged during a tele-townhall last week that the House GOP remains short of the votes it would need to move forward.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) is in the middle of a five-phase investigation into the agency, which he estimated would wrap up around the end of September. But Green cautioned they would not make a final decision about any impeachment referrals to the Judiciary Committee until it is completed.

"Clearly it’s not as exciting” as other GOP investigations, Green replied when asked about the conference's waning Mayorkas focus. "But we ain’t stopping.”

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McCarthy edges back from the brink of a Biden impeachment inquiry

Kevin McCarthy edged back from the brink of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Tuesday, less than a day after suggesting his party was close to announcing one.

The speaker set off a Washington kerfuffle Monday night when he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he believed the House GOP’s investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings were “rising to the level of [an] impeachment inquiry,” presumably into his father.

But during lengthy Tuesday question-and-answer sessions with reporters, McCarthy said his televised remarks were not meant as an announcement of any new steps. Instead, the California Republican clarified that the myriad of allegations he is seeing from Republicans’ investigations “could” eventually merit an impeachment inquiry.

“I wasn't announcing it,” McCarthy said of his Fox News comments. “I simply said that the actions that I’m seeing by this administration — withholding the agencies from being able to work with us, that would rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry.”

“We … still have a number of investigations going forward now. The committees are working in good faith. They’re finding new information all the time,” McCarthy added.

He later took to Twitter with a similar dialing back of the tone he took on Fox, writing: “If evidence continues to rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry, House Republicans will act.”

The speaker’s pullback comes as Republicans face fierce pressure from their right flank to impeach Biden or a Cabinet official — a high bar that would require near-total GOP unity, given their five-seat majority. A swath of McCarthy’s conference remains skeptical of any impeachment effort at the moment, underscoring the hurdle that conservative backers face despite GOP control of the House.

McCarthy said on Tuesday that he has no timeline for when House Republicans might make a call on whether or not to vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry, which he has described as a step that would give Republicans more investigative tools. Even if Republicans voted to take that step, they would still need to decide whether to hold an impeachment vote in committee, before taking the matter to the House floor.

Asked how long Biden’s Cabinet departments have to indicate whether they will cooperate with GOP investigations, McCarthy also declined to give a firm timeline. “Committees are currently bringing people in for interviews,” he noted.

“We’ve got a number of people coming in,” McCarthy said. “They could come … forward with all the information these committees are requesting, and we wouldn’t have to rise to [that].”

McCarthy, in his Fox News interview, stopped short of explicitly saying he would move to formalize an inquiry against Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland or any other administration official.

In addition, he broadly discussed the different threads the House GOP is investigating. Those topics include payments that Biden’s family members received from foreign companies, though Republicans have failed to provide evidence that links the president to those payments; IRS whistleblowers who allege the Justice Department hampered the federal probe of Hunter Biden; and an uncorroborated FBI document that links the president to bribery allegations involving the First Son.

Citing that variety of activity, McCarthy argued Monday night that the Republican investigations are building in the direction of what would be a historic impeachment inquiry. While he has previously opened the door to a potential impeachment inquiry into Garland if Republicans could prove he had lied, those remarks amounted to his strongest statement yet on a Biden impeachment.

Republicans last month punted an impeachment resolution from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) back to committees for further work.

In the weeks since then, however, Republicans have pushed to escalate their investigation into President Biden, Hunter Biden and the years-long federal investigation of the First Son. The two IRS whistleblowers who allege federal intervention into the Hunter Biden probe testified last week, and negotiations are underway for a follow-up hearing with David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in charge of that probe.

But McCarthy’s remarks fueled new impeachment chatter from some of its most ardent conservative backers on Tuesday — marking a potential headache of the California Republican's own making.

"As we've continued to amass evidence and information, I certainly think, bare minimum, we should be doing an impeachment inquiry,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Tuesday.

Both Garland and Weiss have denied the whistleblower claims that the DOJ meddled in the Hunter Biden probe. DOJ has offered to have Weiss testify on the Hill after the August recess in late September or mid-October. Garland is already scheduled to testify before the House in late September as part of a routine oversight hearing.

“The only way we can investigate that is through an impeachment inquiry so that the committee would have the power to get all the documents,” McCarthy said. “What I said last night, and … I said it before, the more this continues to unravel it reaches to the level of impeachment inquiry.”

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene booted from House Freedom Caucus

The House Freedom Caucus voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from the pro-Trump group last month, a member confirmed Thursday, indicating that her fight with Rep. Lauren Boebert was part of the group's reasoning.

“A vote was taken to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from the House Freedom Caucus for some of the things she's done,” said Freedom Caucus board member Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.). When asked if she was formally out, he replied: “As far as I know, that is the way it is.”

It's the first public confirmation of Greene's fate within the conservative group. The vote was first reported by POLITICO, though it was unclear at the time whether she had been ejected. It took place less than two days after Greene got into a verbal floor fight with Freedom Caucus member Boebert, during which Greene referred to the Colorado Republican as a “little bitch.” After the exchange was first reported, Greene confirmed the fight and doubled down, adding another pejorative.

The two have clashed repeatedly in the past, but Harris indicated that particular spat had factored into the conservative group’s thinking.

“I think the way she referred to a fellow member was probably not the way we expect our members to refer to other fellow, especially female, members,” Harris said Thursday. The Maryland Republican declined to say how he voted but called the decision to remove her “an appropriate action.”

It's the first time the conservative caucus has booted one of its own and reflects the group's increasing level of frustration with Greene. She's closely allied herself with Speaker Kevin McCarthy this year, lining up against many Freedom Caucus members when she supported both his rocky speakership bid and his debt deal with President Joe Biden. At the same time, the group is working through a post-Trump crossroads, with some fretting the group is at risk of becoming too friendly with the party establishment.

Asked if her support for McCarthy and the debt deal fed into the decision to remove her from the group, Harris replied: “I think all of that mattered.”

“I think the straw that broke the camel's back was publicly saying things about another member in terms that no one should,” he said.

A Freedom Caucus spokesperson declined to comment on Greene’s status, noting that the group doesn’t comment on membership or internal processes. Greene did not directly address her Freedom Caucus membership in a statement on Thursday, instead saying that: “In Congress, I serve Northwest Georgia first, and serve no group in Washington."

“The GOP has less than two years to show America what a strong, unified Republican-led Congress will do when President Trump wins the White House in 2024. This is my focus, nothing else,” she added.

Greene typically attends the group’s weekly off-campus meeting. But that closed-door gathering is limited to members, meaning she would no longer be able to attend.

While it's the first time the group has formally voted to remove a member from its ranks, she's not the first to leave. Then-Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan previously quit the group in 2019 and left the Republican Party shortly after. Harris noted that there was “one other member a couple of years ago, who we probably would have asked to leave, but we just decided not to.”

And it might not end at Greene. There’s been discussion about targeting a handful of members beyond the Georgia Republican, who critics see as violating group standards by being inactive. House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) previously told POLITICO that he had denied those purge requests, which came before the vote to remove Greene.

“The speaker’s race, there was some difference in opinion. The debt ceiling, there were differences of opinion. And we had to get 80 percent on any major issue that we take positions on,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a Freedom Caucus member, previously told POLITICO, referring to the threshold needed for the group to take a unified stance. “On some big issues, we have not been able to get there.”

The group is currently at the center of the fight over government funding as they try to push McCarthy and members of leadership to go below levels set in the debt deal and to hold the line when he, ultimately, has to negotiate with the White House and Senate Democrats.

Though the group is largely unified on wanting lower spending, they’ve also haggled in private about what their strategy should be after they cut a deal with McCarthy to end a weeklong standoff that ground the House floor to a halt.

Harris, however, argued that after booting Greene there were no other remaining “large divisions” and praised Perry.

“This wasn’t even a speed bump,” Harris added.

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report. 

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House GOP plows ahead on risky immigration plan

House Republicans dug in Wednesday on a two-track strategy to project commitment to border security. Both tracks seem headed toward failure.

On one side, Judiciary Committee Republicans advanced a sweeping border and immigration plan after weeks of closed-door negotiations. Meanwhile, Republicans are also quietly laying the groundwork to potentially impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, using an hours-long appearance before the Homeland Security panel to preview their argument amid a cascade of GOP fury over his handling of the border.

The border bill and Mayorkas impeachment already faced heavy skepticism from a coalition of GOP centrists that's showing no signs of fading. Centrists have raised fears that the immigration plan goes too far in limiting asylum claims, while also blanching at conservative demands to take the historic step of impeaching a Cabinet official.

Though neither House GOP effort has a chance at success in the Democratic-controlled Senate, a failure to get border security measures through the one chamber of Congress they control would mark a significant stumble for Republicans on an issue highly important to their base.

“I am confident leadership will not bring anything to the floor that does not have the votes to pass. … However long that takes, that’s what you want,” said Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), a vocal critic of the Judiciary Committee's bill.

Criticism from purple-district Republicans amounts to a political tee-ball pitch for Democrats, who are all too happy to cite their GOP colleagues in making their case against the immigration legislation.

“This bill has no chance of being enacted into law, and most of its provisions cannot even pass on the House floor because of opposition from Republicans,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), his party's top member on the Judiciary panel.

In a nod toward Gonzales, Nadler added that Republicans “should heed the advice of one of their own.”

While the intra-GOP fight has blasted to the forefront, given the Judiciary Committee's advancement of the border security bill Wednesday, Gonzales remains locked in a months-long public spat with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has vocally pushed more conservative immigration measures.

Though Roy’s bill isn’t in the Judiciary package, pieces of the committee’s proposed changes to asylum laws closely reflect sections of the Texas Republican's plan.

Many Republicans defended the Judiciary Committee bill, arguing it was needed to push back against more than two years of Biden administration policies, and, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) added, “to restore the successful Trump policy.” Republicans argue the border influx was much more manageable under the former president, when the Trump administration placed drastic limits on migrants' ability to claim asylum.

Republicans, more broadly, view the issue as a potent one heading into 2024, where they are hoping to win back the White House and flip the Senate by ousting a handful of Democrats running in red and purple states.

But, Democrats aren't making it easy for Republicans to pass the legislation, offering a slew of potential changes that could appeal to skeptical centrists.

For example, they unsuccessfully offered multiple amendments to alter, or remove, a section that would beef up e-verify requirements, which require that certain businesses check the citizenship status of their employees.

Opponents of the bill are hoping they will find allies on the floor with agriculture-minded Republicans like Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) against the broader bill.

“I’m surprised that this bill is in here, frankly. … It’s never been able to pass on the House floor,” Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said about the GOP’s e-verify language.

The immigration package is likely to clear the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday without getting tangled in GOP infighting, in part because the panel is stocked with conservatives. But what can clear that panel, Republicans acknowledge, isn’t automatically reflective of what could get 218 votes on the House floor.

And Republicans have set an ambitious goal to clear legislation through the chamber by the middle of next month.

In the meantime, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a vote on its own border bill next week. The Rules Committee is then expected to merge the two proposals, allowing Republicans to make more changes before a final product gets to the floor.

The Homeland Security panel had initially been expected to hold a vote on its proposal this week, but that was delayed by Mayorkas' scheduled testimony. And Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chair, reportedly told donors this month that he believed his committee was making the case for Mayorkas' impeachment — a move that would require near-total House GOP unity to succeed.

Republicans have so far rolled out two impeachment resolutions against Mayorkas, and neither has won over even close to a majority of the House GOP conference.

One, from Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), currently has 42 cosponsors, while a separate resolution from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) has 32. Democrats, and some GOP lawmakers, have warned that their colleagues are equating a policy disagreement — namely, that Mayorkas isn't appropriately handling increased migration levels — to a high crime or misdemeanor.

“I was dismayed to see that, speaking to a group of campaign contributors last week about today’s hearing, the chairman said, and I quote, ‘Get the popcorn, it’s going to be fun.’ I think that tells Americans all they need to know,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.

Underscoring the competing pressures within their own party, Republicans found themselves at odds with one of their own during Wednesday’s hearing when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Mayorkas a “liar.”

Green, the panel's chair, ultimately ruled that her remarks went against committee rules and formally struck them from the hearing record — a rare step that is even more rarely taken against a member of the same party. The dust-up generated frustrations and headlines of its own, threatening to put a focus back on intra-party tensions.

But Republicans also used Wednesday's Homeland Security hearing to zero in on the GOP’s argument for impeachment, with Green telling Mayorkas: “You have not secured our borders, and I believe you’ve done so intentionally.”

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House GOP quietly preps take two of its border push

House Republicans' ambitious promises to overhaul border security fizzled as soon as they assumed the majority. They’re preparing for a second attempt anyway.

GOP lawmakers have reinitiated their hunt for border and immigration policy changes, hoping to bridge the divide between the conference’s gung-ho conservatives and more cautious centrists. Those competing sides already forced party leaders to torpedo plans for quick passage of legislation in the first weeks of the new Congress, turning a potential political advantage against Democrats into an early lesson about the pitfalls of their own slim majority.

They’ve kept the latest efforts out of the spotlight. Even so, senior members — including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chairs of the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, respectively — are quietly working on a slate of border-related bills, according to four GOP lawmakers and aides, that could be ready to begin moving as soon as the end of the month.

Republicans have pitched ideas like reviving the border wall and cracking down on asylum seekers, policies that stand no chance in the Senate but would let them claim a messaging victory — if they can manage to push them through the House.

Underscoring how quickly one of Republicans’ biggest election talking points turned into a sore spot for old tensions, even those at the center of the intra-party debate aren’t willing to publicly bet against another derailment ... at least, not yet.

“I can’t read minds. I can’t tell fortunes,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who chairs Judiciary’s immigration subpanel, said in a brief interview about the chances House Republicans pass a bill if they can get it out of committee and to the floor.

The GOP’s struggle to unite on border and immigration bills isn’t new — it’s approaching a congressional cliché at this point, as both parties continuously struggle to come to any sort of agreement on comprehensive changes. But the lack of agreement sparked a bitter feud between two Texas members particularly and prompted questions from reporters over Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership.

And it could easily cut against a perennial GOP talking point that Democrats are weak on border security, which the party is sure to reuse in 2024.

Publicly, Republicans have tried to put that message at the heart of their still-nascent majority. They've taken a series of trips to the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight its manifold security challenges, lambasting the Biden administration as their Democratic colleagues boycott some of their field hearings.

The strategy has scored some wins. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz generated headlines Wednesday when asked by Green if DHS had operational control over the entire southern border, he responded: “No.”

Green followed up with a brief clip of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas telling House lawmakers that DHS did have operational control. Ortiz declined to say if he believed the secretary was lying — a charge conservatives have made as they’ve called for Mayorkas' impeachment.

A DHS official, after Wednesday’s hearing, pointed to Mayorkas’ comments during a separate Senate hearing last year. He said then that based on the statutory definition of “operational control,” which Green showed during his hearing, “this country has never had operational control.” (Democrats, and even some Republicans, have defended Mayorkas arguing that the impeachment calls chalk up to policy disagreements.)

But as Republicans publicly keep their rhetorical fire aimed at the Biden administration, they still want to pursue legislative overhauls. A leadership aide, granted anonymity to describe the private discussions, told POLITICO that there are “ongoing talks with members … and leadership about what a border package would look like.”

And they appear to have learned a lesson from their first misstep when their attempts to quickly vote on a border bill in the first weeks of the term imploded. Instead of trying to go straight to the floor, Republicans are expected to first take their next slate of border-related bills through two committees — the Homeland Security and Judiciary panels.

Neither committee has formally scheduled votes as the negotiations continue behind the scenes. But Green is expected to roll out a border bill within weeks, aiming to hold a panel vote in April. Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that his goal is to start moving legislation through Judiciary by the end of March — though some aides are privately betting that it will slip into April given Congress' typical pace.

“We’ve got a number of bills we’re gonna look at,” Jordan said in a brief interview. “We’re just trying to be ready.”

Jordan pointed to bills by GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Tom Tiffany (Wis.) and Chip Roy (Texas) as options for a border security package that his committee is expected to soon consider. Roy’s bill, which critics even in his own party fear would bar asylum claims as currently known, fueled his party’s legislative heartburn earlier this year by sparking pushback from more centrist conference colleagues. That included Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), who is now openly feuding with Roy over border and immigration policies.

Roy rejected his critics’ asylum interpretation but signaled he’s willing to give leadership space, at least for now. He's not currently asking them to move a border package to the floor, instead saying "the plan" was to take it through the Judiciary Committee. (The Homeland Security panel, where it was also sent, isn’t expected to vote on it.)

But even if the bill clears Jordan's panel, it's no guarantee it can withstand scrutiny of the wider conference. Even Republican members admit the committee is more conservatively slanted than the whole of the GOP House, and leadership can only afford to lose a few members in a floor vote if all Democrats oppose any legislation.

If committees are able to advance legislation, leadership will have to decide whether to move the bills to the floor separately or as one package. Some members have floated merging whatever comes out of the Judiciary and the Homeland Security panels into one bill, a risky move that could test Washington’s favorite deal-solving tactic of trying to give everyone buy-in by making a package too big to fail.

But the math, GOP aides privately acknowledge, could be tricky. More border security, at a 30,000-foot rhetorical level, generally unites Republicans — until you drill down into the details. Making hardline changes to asylum policies or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) could peel off votes that Republicans can’t afford to lose.

Meanwhile, Roy drew his own red line, warning he won’t support just throwing money at DHS: “We’re going to change the policies or we’re not going to move anything through here.”

Another GOP aide described the effort to unite the conference on border policy as trying to collect “frogs in a bucket.” In further evidence of the challenge, no decisions have been made about when bills would come to the floor, or if it would be one package or several separate votes, according to a leadership aide.

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus as well as the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, predicted both panels will vote on border legislation within weeks, saying that he didn’t believe there was “friction” within the conference — at least when it came to timing.

But Bishop added that he would want leadership to put a bill on the floor, even if it might fail.

“I’m indifferent as to whether it will pass or not,” Bishop said. “I think we need to put the right bills on the floor.”

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Dems name former Trump impeachment officials to GOP investigative panel

House Democrats have tapped a former Donald Trump impeachment manager to lead their counterattack to Republicans’ sweeping investigative panel.

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries announced his picks to sit on the select subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government, which will be the home of several high-profile, controversial Republican probes — including a broad dive into the FBI and Justice Department.

Jeffries, in a letter to his colleagues, named Del. Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat who represents the Virgin Islands, as the party’s top member on the panel, putting her at the forefront of the party’s efforts to push back on the GOP investigations. Plaskett was part of House Democrats’ impeachment team during the 2021 Senate trial in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, when a mob of the former president’s supporters breached the Capitol in an effort to subvert President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.

Plaskett, a former prosecutor, made history in the role as the first delegate to serve as an impeachment manager. Fellow impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), now the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, was once her law professor at American University.

Jeffries also nominated three members of the Oversight Committee for the select panel: Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.). Connolly and Lynch ran against Raskin for the top spot on that panel but fell short. And Goldman, a freshman, previously served as counsel for House Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Democratic Reps. Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Colin Allred (Texas) and Sylvia Garcia (Texas) also got seats on the select subcommittee. Technically, McCarthy appoints all members of the panel, meaning he’ll need to sign off on the Democratic picks, but the California Republican has said he would let Democrats name their own members for the subcommittee.

Jeffries, in the letter to his colleagues, said that the Democrats leading their party on the committees would need to “stand up to extremism from the other side of the aisle.” In addition to picking Plaskett as the top Democrat on the weaponization subcommittee, Jeffries also picked Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) to be the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee after McCarthy blocked Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the longtime lead Democrat, from serving on the panel.

The minority leader also tapped Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) to head Democrats on a select committee on strategic competition between the United States and China and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) to be the party’s top official on a subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic.

“It remains my goal to prioritize and value input from every corner of the Caucus so we may unleash the full potential of our team. The members of the select committees reflect the tremendous experience, background and ability of the House Democratic Caucus, and authentically represent the gorgeous mosaic of the American people,” he added.

Under a fix passed by the House earlier Wednesday, the select panel members were expected to include Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who serve as chair and ranking member of the full Judiciary Committee, as well as an additional 19 lawmakers — no more than eight of whom would be Democrats. But Jeffries, in his announcement, said that Nadler would instead serve as an ex-officio member. The overall break down of the panel is 12 Republicans to 9 Democrats.

Democrats on the subcommittee will be tasked with finding an offensive lane to counter the GOP investigations, with Republicans on the panel expected to expand the scope of their probes to include the intelligence community, the Department of Education, big tech and other targets.

The minority party largely avoided naming any bomb throwers to the subcommittee, but their members are well-steeped in investigative tactics and procedural mechanisms Republicans may choose to deploy as they pursue their own favored probes.

In addition to serving as an impeachment manager, Plaskett was also on the Ways and Means Committee in the last Congress, which was at the center of the fight for Trump’s tax returns. Sánchez is also a member of the tax writing committee.

Connolly, in particular, also has a long history of tangling with Jordan and other GOP members of the panel through their time on the Oversight Committee.

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

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House GOP leaps headlong into divisive Mayorkas impeachment debate

The new House GOP majority is taking its first step Wednesday toward a goal that’s openly dividing its members: booting DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from office.

Republicans started laying the groundwork on two tracks this week to potentially impeach Mayorkas over his handling of the border — a historically rare step that hasn’t been used against a Cabinet member since 1876. Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who would lead any impeachment inquiry, held what he promises will be the first in a series of hearings on the border on Wednesday, while Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) plans to launch his own opening salvo next week.

And while one group of Republicans begins to make their case, another is ready to start impeachment immediately. The House GOP’s right flank has already filed an impeachment resolution and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) rolled out his own proposal Wednesday. Meanwhile, centrists are warning they aren’t on board and recent polls have suggested the public is wary of an excessive focus on investigations.

It marks another test for House GOP leaders, as they try to balance the demands of more moderate members and a base that’s eager to go scorched-earth against President Joe Biden and other administration officials. Not to mention that Republicanswillhave to navigate a barrage of criticism from Democrats and their allies, who accuse the GOP of using the border as a wedge issue to enact political revenge over policy differences.

Republicanswhowantto impeach Mayorkas acknowledge they haven’t reached a critical mass within their own conference, though Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) predicted that there would be “a lot of sentiment” among GOPlawmakers to remove the DHS secretary. Ifaresolution came to the floor, Republicans could only afford to lose four votes within their own party.

“I think when you lay the case out as any impeachment happens, I think [support] grows. Obviously, it’s not going to happen instantaneously,” Hern said when asked if the conference should move toward impeachment without the votes locked down.

Yet other leadership allies are warning against officially moving forward with impeachment without a baked-in result. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), part of a shrinking pool of House GOP pragmatists, warned against forcing members to stake out a stance on a controversial topic if it's not guaranteed of success.

“I just don’t think it’s helpful to put people in that position,” he said.

The eager-to-impeach right flank has so far largely lobbed two broad arguments against Mayorkas: That he’s lost operational control of the border, and that he lied under oath when he told Congress the border was secure. And while their early hearings are focused on the border broadly, GOP lawmakers have signaled they will try to use the bully pulpit of their majority to demonstrate that the administration hasn’t complied with the law.

The administration and congressional Democrats, meanwhile, argue Republicans are overstating what amounts to policy differences over the handling of the border. Democrats, and even some Republicans, are quick to point out that is a far cry from the high bar for impeachment of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Mayorkas has repeatedly defended his handling of the border, signaling he has no intention of giving into the GOP calls for his resignation. Asked during an MSNBC interview on Tuesday about the House GOP impeachment articles, Mayorkas urged Republicans to take up legislation that would fix what he called a “terribly broken” and “outdated” immigration system. The party has attempted sweeping changes to immigration law and border security multiple times in the last decade, to no avail.

“We are doing everything that we can to increase its efficiency to provide humanitarian relief when the law permits and to also deliver an enforcement consequence when the law dictates,” Mayorkas said.

Hill Democrats are privately betting that conservatives’ impeachment pledge will put its moderates in a bind. A House aide, granted anonymity to speak frankly, predicted that “those members are going to start getting real antsy real fast,” as others try to get into “crazy, wacko border security stuff.”

And it’s more than members in purple districts who may feel squeezed by impeachment talk. Republicans will also be playing defense in a cache of blue-leaning seats come 2024 when their thin majority is on the line. Some GOP members in those districts, even if they strongly disagree with Mayorkas’ handling of the border, are openly skeptical their voters want to see him removed.

“I do think what’s going on at the border is negligence, dereliction of duty, but I’m not convinced that impeaching Mayorkas is going to solve the problem. I think we need the election in 2024 to change the White House,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said, though he cautioned that hearings could give a better sense of how voters feel about the issue.

Others, including Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), have warned that they think the party needs to focus on policies like fighting inflation. And then there's border Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), emerging as a vote to watch in the GOP-controlled House, who is viewed as an impeachment skeptic after describing it in January as a “in case of emergency break glass” option.

Gonzales reiterated during a sit-down interview with POLITICO on Tuesday that he wasn’t going to get ahead of any potential proceedings.

Tony Gonzales is viewed as an impeachment skeptic after describing it in January as a “in case of emergency break glass” option.

A recent spate of polling offers its own cautionary tale for Republicans. Fifty-five percent of respondents to a recent NBC News poll said they expected Republicans leading investigations into Biden and the administration “will spend too much time on the investigations and not enough time on other priorities.”

Nearly three-fourths of respondents to a separate CNN poll said they thought Republicans hadn’t yet paid attention to the country’s “most important priorities.” Nearly half named economic issues as the most important topic, compared to 11 percent listing immigration.

So far, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is only pledging an investigation. Asked recently about his November remarks calling for Mayorkas to resign, the California Republican told reporters that the House GOP will conduct their probe and said that could lead to an impeachment inquiry. But he wouldn’t pre-judge an outcome, as many top Republicans hope the case made in committee hearings will win over enough wary colleagues and disinterested voters.

“If a person is derelict in their duties and they are harming Americans and Americans are actually dying by the lack of their work, that could rise to that occasion,” he told reporters.

But supporters of impeaching Mayorkas believe they’ve moved him. Biggs said Wednesday that he was “hopeful” that McCarthy will “be fully on board” by the time any proceedings got under way in the Judiciary Committee.

The panel held a hearing Wednesday that focused on testimony from non-administration officials: Brandon Dunn, the co-founder of Forever 15 Project, a group that tries to raise awareness about Fentanyl poisoning; Dale Lynn Carruthers, a county judge in Texas; and Mark Dannels, a sheriff in Arizona. The latter two have both been critical of Biden’s border policies. It offered few policy surprises, with Republicans driving home their well-established views on border security and immigration.

Over on the Oversight Committee, Comer will hold a hearing next week with Gloria Chavez and John Modlin, two chief Border Patrol agents.

Neither of the two GOP chairs are ruling out using subpoenas to try to get witnesses and documents they want. Their panel members have backed up that strategy.

“We’re going to use the power of subpoena,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said. “And we’ve got to use the power of subpoena to haul Mayorkas in front of the Judiciary Committee.”

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Dems name new members to combat GOP investigations — including Schiff

House Democrats are placing Rep. Adam Schiff on a high-profile committee at the center of combating Republican investigations for the next two years, fresh off Speaker Kevin McCarthy booting him from another panel.

The California Democrat is one of a roster of party fighters who will now serve on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, with the full lineup of members approved by the House this week. Those Democrats will have to strategize how to counter to some of Republicans most high-profile and politically controversial probes, including into Hunter Biden and the Biden family, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and a broad sweep into the FBI and Justice Department.

Much of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic roster, led by ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), is a slimmed-down mirror of last year's line-up — besides the addition of Schiff, who officially launched a Senate bid last week shortly after McCarthy blocked him from the top party spot on the Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.).

Democrats will get their first test run on pushing back against Republicans on the panel, chaired by McCarthy-antagonist-turned-ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), on Wednesday during the committee's first hearing, centered on the border. In addition to investigations, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will be at the forefront of any impeachment inquiries, as Republicans have called for forcibly removing Mayorkas over his handling of the border.

Meanwhile, several new freshmen members have joined the Oversight Committee, including Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who was counsel to House Democrats during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

The panel's Democrats also named Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to serve as vice ranker, a possibility reported by POLITICO last week. It's a move that could be highly significant if Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has to miss hearings as he undergoes cancer treatment.

The new members “have come from all over America to fight for their communities. Now they join the Democrats on the Oversight and Accountability Committee — the ‘Truth Squad’ — to conduct thorough and fact-based oversight to ensure an effective, efficient, and accountable American government that delivers for the American people,” Raskin said in a statement about Democrats’ line up.

Republicans on the Oversight Committee have vowed to investigate dozens of areas within the Biden administration. But they've signaled panel Republicans' main focus will be targeting President Joe Biden himself, primarily by delving into Hunter Biden’s business dealings and other members of the Biden family; the coronavirus pandemic, including federal government directives and the “origins” of the virus; the border, and the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

And the panel includes some of the House GOP’s most right-leaning members, including Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.

Democrats still need to pick their members for a Republican-run select subcommittee that will look into the “weaponization” of the federal government, a concession McCarthy made to conservatives in order to secure the speakership.

McCarthy unveiled the GOP picks for the panel last week, naming 11 Republicans plus Jordan to lead the sweeping committee — more members than expected. The House is expected to pass a resolution expanding the size of the subcommittee, which would proportionally boost the number of Democratic seats.

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