House Republicans formally authorized their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Wednesday, taking their most significant step toward impeaching the president.

House Republicans formally authorized their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Wednesday, taking their most significant step toward impeaching the president.

The House voted along party lines by a vote of 221-212 to green light the inquiry.

Republicans have alleged the president financially benefited from his family’s foreign business dealings, though they haven’t publicly released evidence backing up the claims.

The votes comes after House Republicans accused the White House of stonewalling their investigation. Authorizing the inquiry, they say, could bolster their legal standing if their requests for information make it to court.

The White House says it has cooperated fully with the investigation and provided plenty of evidence disputing House Republicans’ allegations.

The impeachment inquiry “only proves how divorced from reality this sham investigation is,” said Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for Oversight and Investigations.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and GOP investigators leading the inquiry say it’s simply an investigation, and House Republicans have not predetermined whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.

“To fulfill our constitutional responsibility, we have to take the next step. We’re not making a political decision, it’s not. It’s a legal decision,” Johnson said at a weekly press conference on Tuesday. “We can’t prejudge the outcome. The Constitution does not permit us to do so. We have to follow the truth where it takes us.”

But House Democrats have questioned the purpose of the investigation, given that Republicans have yet to turn up evidence directly tying Biden to his family’s business dealings.

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“What is the crime that Joe Biden is being accused of? They don’t have it,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said. Raskin is the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, which is one of three committees tasked with leading the investigation into Biden.

The vote to authorize Republicans’ inquiry came the same day the president’s son, Hunter Biden was scheduled to testify in a Capitol Hill deposition behind closed doors.

But Hunter Biden defied the subpoena, instead delivering impassioned remarks at a press conference early Wednesday morning. He defended his father and accused GOP investigators of weaponizing his substance use disorder to attack the president.

“In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It’s shameless,” Hunter Biden said. “There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was involved in my business because it did not happen.”

Hunter Biden has demanded to testify in a public hearing, rather than behind closed doors. But the GOP investigators leading the probe are asking Hunter Biden to testify in a deposition first, claiming that Democrats would disrupt public proceedings. The House Oversight Committee has said it will begin proceedings to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress.

“We have specific questions for the president’s son. He does not get to dictate the terms of this subpoena,” House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., said.

Months ago, an impeachment inquiry looked like it was a tough sell for moderate and vulnerable House Republicans, most of them hailing from the 17 districts Biden won in the 2020 election.

That lack of support was in part what led then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to open the probe in September without a formal vote. The California Republican criticized Democrats in 2019 for doing the same and vowed to have the approval of the lower chamber before opening the Biden impeachment inquiry.

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But even those vulnerable Republicans now agree that the White House has been uncooperative and think authorizing the probe will allow them to further investigate.

“We have enough information and testimony and evidence right now to continue the process of the inquiry,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., a Biden-district GOP member.

Reactions to the impeachment inquiry among voters across the country were mixed.

Jackson Reffitt, a 21-year-old food service worker in Dallas, Texas, told USA TODAY as a Democratic voter, he is happy to see politicians get audited.

“It’s hard to think of something more important when it comes to pressuring people in power, is to really make sure that, you know, things are in order,” said Reffitt. “And as someone who voted for Biden, if he did something bad, throw it, do whatever you need to, it’s as simple as that. I don’t think there needs to be any debate about it.”

He added, “If he did something, go for it. They need to crack down on it because once you get lenient then you get loose.”

Scott Bailey, a 64-year-old restoration business owner in Charlotte, North Carolina, told USA TODAY lawmakers should have held the vote to authorize the inquiry sooner.

“I don’t know why it’s taking this long. I’m just frustrated that no one has started sooner. It’s very frustrating,” he said.

But some voters balked at lawmakers spending their time on the impeachment investigation. Erik Peterson, a 47-year-old middle school special education teacher in Eureka, California, said he thinks the vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry is “political theater.”

“From my understanding, it’s pretty unfounded,” Peterson, a Democrat, said. “I think it’s retaliatory for the impeachment inquiries when Trump was president.”