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The U.S. House will vote next week on formalizing its Biden impeachment inquiry, Speaker Johnson says

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WASHINGTON -

The U.S. House will vote next week on formally authorizing its impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, Speaker Mike Johnson said Tuesday, asserting Republicans have "no choice" but to push ahead as the White House has rebuffed their requests for information.

Johnson and the rest of the Republican leadership team had been contemplating in recent weeks whether to hold a formal vote on their monthslong inquiry into the president, which has centred on the business dealings of other family members. Their investigation so far has yet to produce any direct evidence of wrongdoing by Biden himself.

While some Republicans are wary of holding a vote on the inquiry, Johnson said the House needs to exercise its authority to the fullest amid a standoff with the White House over requests for information related to Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

"The House has no choice if it's going to follow its constitutional responsibility to formally adopt an impeachment inquiry on the floor so that when the subpoenas are challenged in court, we will be at the apex of our constitutional authority," Johnson told reporters.

The White House has repeatedly dismissed the inquiry as a "baseless exercise" meant to appease right-wing lawmakers.

Republicans had long said a vote on the impeachment investigation was unnecessary but began to reconsider when White House lawyers used the lack of formal House authorization to argue that the entire investigation lacked "constitutional legitimacy."

But a vote on the House floor -- going into a presidential election cycle -- amounts to a major test of party unity, given the GOP's narrow 221-213 majority. House Democrats for their part have remained unified in their opposition to the impeachment process, saying it is a farce used by the GOP to take attention away from former President Donald Trump and his legal woes.

For the impeachment probe vote to succeed, nearly all House Republicans will have to vote in favour of the inquiry, putting them on record in support of a process that can lead to the ultimate penalty for a president, dismissal from office for what the Constitution describes as "high crimes and misdemeanours."

For some moderate Republicans, especially those representing districts that Biden won in the 2020 election, it's a vote that could come with considerable political risk.

Johnson on Tuesday dismissed concerns that he wouldn't be able to rally his vulnerable members to support moving forward with the inquiry. He emphasized the House is not voting to impeach Biden, only to continue to investigate.

"All the moderates in our conference understand this is not a political decision," he said. "This is a legal decision. This is a constitutional decision. And whether someone is for or against impeachment is of no import right now."

He added, "We have to continue our legal responsibility and that is solely what this vote is about."

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