President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council in the Indian Treaty Room on the White House campus, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Washington. SHOVEL

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday authorized the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, with all Republicans uniting in support of the politically charged process despite lingering concerns among some in the party that the investigation has not yet produced evidence of malfeasance. conduct on the part of the president.

The 221-212 party-line vote left the entire House Republican conference on record in support of an impeachment process that could lead to the ultimate penalty for a president: punishment for what the Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which could lead to removal from office if convicted in a Senate trial.

Biden, in a rare statement about the impeachment effort, questioned House Republicans' priorities in pursuing an inquiry into him and his family.

“Instead of doing anything to help improve the lives of Americans, they are focused on attacking me with lies,” the president said after the vote. “Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political maneuver that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.”

Authorizing the month-long inquiry ensures that the impeachment investigation will extend into 2024, when Biden will run for reelection and appears likely to face former President Donald Trump — who was impeached twice during his time in the White House. Trump has pressed his GOP allies in Congress to move quickly to impeach Biden, part of his broader calls for revenge and retribution against his political enemies.

The decision to hold a vote came as President Mike Johnson and his team faced increasing pressure to show progress in what has become a nearly yearlong investigation centered on the business dealings of Biden family members. Although the investigation raised ethical concerns, no evidence emerged that Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current role or in his previous role as vice president.

“We do not take this responsibility lightly and will not prejudice the outcome of the investigation,” House Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team said in a joint statement after the vote. “But the evidentiary record is impossible to ignore.”

House Democrats unitedly opposed the inquiry resolution on Wednesday, calling it a hoax perpetrated by those on the other side of the aisle to avenge the two impeachments against Trump.

“This whole thing is an extreme political stunt. It has no credibility, no legitimacy, no integrity. It’s a sideshow,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said during a floor debate.

Some House Republicans, especially those from politically divided districts, have been hesitant in recent weeks to vote to impeach Biden, fearing a significant political cost. But GOP leaders have argued in recent weeks that the resolution is just a step in the process, not a decision to impeach Biden. That message appears to have won over skeptics.

“As we have said countless times, voting for an impeachment inquiry does not equal impeachment,” Rep. Tom Emmer, a member of the GOP leadership team, said at a press conference Tuesday.

Emmer said Republicans “will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead, and if they uncover evidence of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, then and only then will they consider the next steps in the impeachment process.”

Most Republicans reluctant to support the impeachment push were also swayed by the leadership's recent argument that authorizing the inquiry would give them a better legal standing, as the White House questioned the legal and constitutional basis of their requests for information.

A letter sent last month by a top White House lawyer to Republican committee leaders portrayed the GOP investigation as overzealous and illegitimate because the House had not yet authorized a formal impeachment inquiry by vote of the full House. Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, also wrote that when Trump faced the prospect of impeachment by a Democratic-led House in 2019, Johnson said at the time that any inquiry without a House vote would be a “sham.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said this week that while there was no evidence to impeach the president, “that’s not what this week’s vote would be about either.”

“We’ve had enough political impeachments in this country,” he said. “I don’t like the blockage the government has been doing, but listen, if we don’t have the revenue, that’s bound to restrict what the House does in the long term.”

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, who has long opposed moving forward with impeachment, said the White House's questioning of the legitimacy of the inquiry without a formal vote helped win his support. “I can argue for an inquiry right now,” he told reporters this week. “Let’s see what they find out.”

House Democrats remained united in their opposition to the impeachment process, saying it is a sham used by the Republican Party to divert attention from Trump and his legal troubles.

“You don’t start an impeachment process unless there is actual evidence of impeachable offenses,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which oversaw both of Trump’s impeachments. “There are none here. None.”

Democrats and the White House have repeatedly defended the president and his administration's cooperation with the investigation so far, saying they have already made available a huge trove of documents.

Congressional investigators have obtained nearly 40,000 pages of subpoenaed bank records and dozens of hours of testimony from key witnesses, including several high-ranking Justice Department officials currently tasked with investigating the president's son, Hunter Biden.

While Republicans say their investigation is ultimately focused on the president himself, they have shown particular interest in Hunter Biden and his foreign business dealings, which they accuse the president of personally benefiting from. Republicans have also focused much of their investigation on whistleblower allegations of interference in the Justice Department's long-running investigation into the younger Biden's taxes and gun use.

Hunter Biden is currently facing criminal charges in two states due to the special counsel investigation. He is charged with a firearms count in Delaware, alleging he violated laws against drug users carrying weapons in 2018, a period in which he acknowledged struggling with addiction. Special counsel David Weiss filed additional charges last week alleging he failed to pay about $1.4 million in taxes over a three-year period.

Democrats have admitted that while the president's son is not perfect, he is a private citizen who is already being held accountable by the judicial system.

“I mean, there's a lot of evidence that Hunter Biden has done a lot of inappropriate things. He has been indicted and will stand trial,” Nadler said. “There is no evidence that the president did anything improper.”

Hunter Biden arrived for a rare public statement outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, saying he would not appear for his scheduled private testimony that morning. The president's son defended himself against years of Republican Party attacks and said his father had no financial involvement in his business.

His lawyer offered to have Biden testify publicly, citing concerns about Republican manipulation of any private testimony.

“Republicans don’t want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless investigation or hear what I have to say,” Biden said outside the Capitol. “What are they afraid of? I'm here.”

Unable to save your signature. Please try again.

Your subscription was successful.

GOP lawmakers said that because Hunter Biden was a no-show, they will begin contempt of Congress proceedings against him. “He just got into more trouble today,” Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters Wednesday.