During lengthy Tuesday question-and-answer sessions with reporters, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said his televised remarks were not meant as an announcement of any new steps. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

Kevin McCarthy edged back from the brink of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Tuesday, less than a day after suggesting his party was close to announcing one.

The speaker set off a Washington kerfuffle Monday night when he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he believed the House GOP’s investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings were “rising to the level of [an] impeachment inquiry,” presumably into his father.

But during lengthy Tuesday question-and-answer sessions with reporters, McCarthy said his televised remarks were not meant as an announcement of any new steps. Instead, the California Republican clarified that the myriad of allegations he is seeing from Republicans’ investigations “could” eventually merit an impeachment inquiry.

“I wasn’t announcing it,” McCarthy said of his Fox News comments. “I simply said that the actions that I’m seeing by this administration — withholding the agencies from being able to work with us, that would rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry.”

“We … still have a number of investigations going forward now. The committees are working in good faith. They’re finding new information all the time,” McCarthy added.

He later took to Twitter with a similar dialing back of the tone he took on Fox, writing: “If evidence continues to rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry, House Republicans will act.”

The speaker’s pullback comes as Republicans face fierce pressure from their right flank to impeach Biden or a Cabinet official — a high bar that would require near-total GOP unity, given their five-seat majority. A swath of McCarthy’s conference remains skeptical of any impeachment effort at the moment, underscoring the hurdle that conservative backers face despite GOP control of the House.

McCarthy said on Tuesday that he has no timeline for when House Republicans might make a call on whether or not to vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry, which he has described as a step that would give Republicans more investigative tools. Even if Republicans voted to take that step, they would still need to decide whether to hold an impeachment vote in committee, before taking the matter to the House floor.

Asked how long Biden’s Cabinet departments have to indicate whether they will cooperate with GOP investigations, McCarthy also declined to give a firm timeline. “Committees are currently bringing people in for interviews,” he noted.

“We’ve got a number of people coming in,” McCarthy said. “They could come … forward with all the information these committees are requesting, and we wouldn’t have to rise to [that].”

McCarthy, in his Fox News interview, stopped short of explicitly saying he would move to formalize an inquiry against Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland or any other administration official.

In addition, he broadly discussed the different threads the House GOP is investigating. Those topics include payments that Biden’s family members received from foreign companies, though Republicans have failed to provide evidence that links the president to those payments; IRS whistleblowers who allege the Justice Department hampered the federal probe of Hunter Biden; and an uncorroborated FBI document that links the president to bribery allegations involving the First Son.

Citing that variety of activity, McCarthy argued Monday night that the Republican investigations are building in the direction of what would be a historic impeachment inquiry. While he has previously opened the door to a potential impeachment inquiry into Garland if Republicans could prove he had lied, those remarks amounted to his strongest statement yet on a Biden impeachment.

Republicans last month punted an impeachment resolution from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) back to committees for further work.

In the weeks since then, however, Republicans have pushed to escalate their investigation into President Biden, Hunter Biden and the years-long federal investigation of the First Son. The two IRS whistleblowers who allege federal intervention into the Hunter Biden probe testified last week, and negotiations are underway for a follow-up hearing with David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in charge of that probe.

But McCarthy’s remarks fueled new impeachment chatter from some of its most ardent conservative backers on Tuesday — marking a potential headache of the California Republican’s own making.

“As we’ve continued to amass evidence and information, I certainly think, bare minimum, we should be doing an impeachment inquiry,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Tuesday.

Both Garland and Weiss have denied the whistleblower claims that the DOJ meddled in the Hunter Biden probe. DOJ has offered to have Weiss testify on the Hill after the August recess in late September or mid-October. Garland is already scheduled to testify before the House in late September as part of a routine oversight hearing.

“The only way we can investigate that is through an impeachment inquiry so that the committee would have the power to get all the documents,” McCarthy said. “What I said last night, and … I said it before, the more this continues to unravel it reaches to the level of impeachment inquiry.”

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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