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Washington — The House is set to vote on formalizing the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into President Biden on Wednesday, a move that could give them more legal firepower to investigate his family’s business dealings.

The vote will put Republicans in districts that Mr. Biden won in 2020 on the record about whether they support an investigation that has so far uncovered no wrongdoing by the president. GOP leaders can only afford to lose a handful of members if Wednesday’s vote is to succeed.

Republicans on the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees have been trying to show for months that Mr. Biden was enriched by his family’s foreign business dealings and accepted bribes. But the full House never voted to open an impeachment probe, leading many Democrats to question its legal authority.

GOP lawmakers have said that a vote to formally authorize the inquiry would give them leverage in court as they seek documents and witness testimony. The argument has helped sway some Republicans who were on the fence about a formal inquiry.

Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who represents a district that voted for Mr. Biden, said he changed his mind about originally not supporting formalizing the inquiry because the president stopped providing information.

“I said this summer, if the president is providing information, why do we need an inquiry?” Bacon said Tuesday. “But it changed when he stopped doing that.”

The fight over impeachment

The resolution to greenlight the investigation lays out rules for public hearings and directs the committees to produce a public report with their findings. Another resolution gives the committee chairmen authority to seek judicial enforcement of their subpoenas with witnesses who refuse to testify. Without formalizing it, a judge could rule that the committees’ subpoenas fall outside of a committee’s purview.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana said last week that it was a necessary step because of “stonewalling” from the White House.

“They’re refusing to turn over key witnesses to allow them to testify as they’ve been subpoenaed,” Johnson said. “They’re refusing to turn over thousands of documents.”

He sought to quell concerns that the vote could be politically risky for some members of his party, saying that the House is only voting to continue the investigation, not on impeaching Mr. Biden.

“Whether someone is for or against impeachment is of no import right now,” Johnson said.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, warned Republicans representing districts won by Mr. Biden in 2020 that Wednesday’s vote is a “slippery slope” for a vote on impeaching the president.

“It will be a runaway stallion, it will be impossible to stop,” Raskin said Monday.

Bacon disagreed that impeachment was inevitable, but said it’s “probably more likely than not” that impeachment articles would be drafted.

The White House’s response

In a lengthy memo released earlier this month, the White House pushed back on the impeachment effort, pointing to a number of quotes from Republicans and witnesses refuting the allegations of wrongdoing by the president. The White House said Republicans have already acquired thousands of pages of bank records and documents and hours of testimony, which it said rebuts the claim that it is “stonewalling” the investigations.

White House spokesperson Ian Sams called it a “partisan smear campaign” and criticized Republicans for pushing ahead with it “despite the fact that members of their own party have admitted there is no evidence to support” impeachment.

“If they press onwards with this baseless fishing expedition, it only proves how divorced from reality this sham investigation is, and will come at the expense of meaningful work to actually address the issues the American people care about, like lowering costs, creating jobs, and strengthening our health care,” Sams said in a statement Monday.

The vote comes just days after the president’s son Hunter Biden was indicted on tax evasion charges brought by special counsel David Weiss.

Hunter Biden’s personal finances and business ventures have been a focus of the congressional committees as they look into whether the president personally benefited from his family’s businesses and whether Biden administration officials tried to obstruct criminal investigations into the president’s son.

Hunter Biden is among the people in the president’s orbit who Republicans want to interview in the coming months. The Oversight Committee informed him last week that he could be held in contempt of Congress if he refused to answer a subpoena to appear for a deposition on Wednesday. Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said he would testify only in an open hearing so that the committee could not “manipulate” or “distort” the facts.

The Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for the president’s brother James Biden and Hunter Biden’s personal business records in September.

Ellis Kim contributed reporting. 

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