Covington, Ky. — A key part of the White House plan to combat the new Republican House majority was on vivid display Wednesday: President Joe Biden talked about bridging and bipartisanship, while Republicans bickered among themselves.

As Biden celebrated upgrading an aging bridge between Kentucky and Ohio, House Republicans bogged down on the basic task of choosing a speaker, heralding what will likely be two years of infighting.

There is no question that once the Republicans figure out who will lead the House, they plan to aim the subpoena power of the chamber directly at Biden.

But the White House is already putting in place a counter-strategy to mitigate the political effect of the investigations on the Biden administration and family. They plan to show him tackling real-world issues that are the top concern of Americans, while painting congressional Republicans as focused on raw politics.

Biden made only brief mention of the GOP’s internal power struggle at the event, but stressed that bipartisan cooperation is the most productive path Congress can take. Joining him was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose support for Biden’s infrastructure bill was critical to its passage. They traveled to the event together in the same car, discussing Russia’s war with Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a bipartisan infrastructure bill event in front of the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Kentucky on February 4. January 2023.
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in front of the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

«Can we work together,” Biden said with the heavily traveled 60-year-old Brent Spence Bridge as his backdrop. “We can do things. We can move the nation forward if we shed our egos a little bit and focus on what’s needed in this country.»

Biden’s plan to neutralize The Republican investigations have been months in the making. The White House and its allies began preparing long before the November midterms for the possibility of Republican takeover of Congress and the investigations that would ensue.

They are refining plans to pressure House Republicans in swing districts to stop any impeachment vote in committee before the issue reaches the full House.

White House allies are pushing the opposition probe into Biden’s Republican opponents and circulating polls showing there is little national appetite for extensive congressional hearings on Bidenworld.

“The end game, to be honest, is flipping them,” said Brad Woodhouse, a senior adviser to a pro-Biden group called the Congressional Integrity Project, referring to House Republicans. “They are doing this to politically damage Joe Biden. So our effort will be to inflict political pain on them.”

Republican lawmakers have not been coy about their intentions. In the minority over the past two years, House Republicans introduced more than a dozen impeachment rulings directed at Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and other senior administration officials. (Democrats say removing public officials over political disputes would be an abuse of the Constitution’s impeachment process.)

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the incoming chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, has sent letters calling on the Biden administration to records involving the foreign business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter.

Appearing at a conference of conservative activists in August, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, rattled off a list of targets he wanted to pursue. The investigations, he said, «will help frame the 2024 race, when I hope and believe that President Trump will run again, and we need to make sure he wins.»

The White House has added a handful of new lawyers, along with a communications team, to deal with the myriad of investigations likely to unfold. This year more contracts will come. The general opinion within the White House is that there is little to worry about. Officials believe the GOP-led investigations stem from conspiracy theories and personal animosity aimed at weakening Biden if he runs for re-election.

Federal agents have been conducting a tax-related investigation into Hunter Biden, who paid his back taxes and insists the mistakes were unintentional. An obstacle to any Republican investigation against the president would be showing that he used his influence to advance his family’s financial interests.

“Hunter Biden is a private citizen who has admitted to having a drug problem and has done business abroad, as many private citizens do,” said Rep.-elect Daniel Goldman, DN.Y., who was lead counsel in the Trump’s first case. the removal process. «Them [Republicans] they have not shown any evidence that anything related to Hunter Biden is connected to President Biden.”

Biden’s allies portray Republicans as hypocrites demanding a quick response to records requests, when some of those same lawmakers tried to shield themselves and the Trump administration from Democratic oversight.

In November, Jordan and other House Republicans sent a letter warning White House chief of staff Ron Klain that they could use subpoena power when they win a majority to obtain Biden administration records related to the treatment. of parents at school board meetings, a hot topic. for the right-wing media.

However, the House Jan. 6 committee referred Jordan and three other Republican members to the Ethics Committee for challenging subpoenas intended to obtain information about the attack on the Capitol.

“This is the same Jim Jordan who defined a legal subpoena from the January 6 committee,” Goldman said. «It’s especially empowering when someone says it doesn’t apply to me, but it should apply to everyone else.»

In any case, Biden does not appear to be in a rush to comply. Richard Sauber, who is part of the expanded White House legal team, sent Jordan a letter last month saying he had overreached since his party was still a minority at the time.

«If he [Judiciary] Committee issues similar or other requests in the [new] Congress, we will review and respond in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches,» Sauber wrote.

Parallel to the White House efforts, a number of outside groups are now at work, hoping to derail the GOP investigations. One focus will be the 20-something Republican House members who represent districts Biden won in 2020 or who swing between the two parties. By deploying operatives in select districts and using paid ads, the groups will try to pressure lawmakers to break with far-right colleagues carrying out the investigations, people familiar with the strategy said.

“We are going to be in these places in some form,” Woodhouse said in a Zoom meeting this week with pro-Biden allies. «We’re going to have a conversation with these members and their constituents about what are the priorities that they really want this Republican Congress to focus on.»

One goal would be to remove enough Republicans to stop any impeachment efforts at the committee stage, preventing the issue from reaching the full House, according to a person familiar with White House thinking. The idea would be to show Republicans that they would pay a political price in swing districts if they spend their time on investigations that voters view as a waste of time.

A Morning Consult-Politician Poll in November it found that only 28% believed that impeaching the president or investigating Hunter Biden’s finances should be a top priority for Congress. By contrast, 57% wanted Congress to prioritize US fentanyl trafficking.

“Our coalition will certainly have teams in several of those congressional districts by the end of the first quarter,” Woodhouse said. “And we’re going to ask every day, ‘Do you approve of this? Do you think your Republican leadership should be more concerned about Hunter Biden than what you’re paying for milk?’”

For all the symbolism of Biden’s bipartisan appearance on Wednesday, the bridge he highlighted shows just how slowly government operates. A dozen years ago, another Democratic president stood on the same bridge. There, Barack Obama challenged McConnell and congressional Republicans to «Help us rebuild this bridge!» and put unemployed construction workers to work.

Joe Biden was vice president at the time. Now, it’s up to him as president to show that his party is finally following through on his commitments and showing that there is a better use of Congressional time than investigating his family.