(CNN) — Six months since opening the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, House Republicans now face a dilemma of their own making: They currently lack the votes in their divided, narrow majority to impeach the president, but ending their investigation would essentially absolve Biden, a signal Republicans do not want to send in an election year.

With the appetite for impeachment waning, Republicans are discussing instead whether to end their investigation by sending criminal referrals to the Department of Justice as pressure to answer calls from the right-wing base to hold Biden accountable remains palpable.

Republicans had structured much of their impeachment investigation around Hunter Biden, the president’s son who was at the center of allegations and theories that his father used his position of power to benefit financially and serve his family’s business dealings. But the closed door-deposition of the president’s son failed to deliver the smoking gun Republicans were hoping for, leaving the inquiry at a standstill.

There are no more closed-door witness interviews scheduled, and there is no clear consensus on how — or even when — to end the probe, multiple sources told CNN.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, who are leading the inquiry, both say they have more work to do before concluding their investigation. Comer has long said he expects the final report on his work to include criminal referrals, without specifying who that would include. In an interview on Fox News, Comer indicated how the criminal referrals could serve as an opening for former President Donald Trump if he is elected in November.

“If Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice won’t take any potential criminal referrals seriously, then maybe the next president, with a new attorney general, will,” Comer said last week.

Other top Republicans involved in this process, however, say that a decision on criminal referrals has not been made and conversations are ongoing.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, told CNN, “There’s more deliberation to be done on it that’s for sure.”

And Jordan said, “Everything is on the table, but we have not decided.”

But as Republicans continue to try to chart a course forward, White House Counsel Ed Siskel called on Johnson in a letter obtained by CNN to bring the probe to a close, since Republicans have been unable to uncover any wrongdoing by the president.

“It is obviously time to move on, Mr. Speaker. This impeachment is over. There is too much important work to be done for the American people to continue wasting time on this charade,” Siskel wrote.

Much of the final decision on how to end the inquiry and when will fall on Johnson, whose leadership style in his short tenure has only emboldened tensions within his narrow majority to grow.

Sources say the speaker has yet to weigh in on how Republicans should end their investigation.

Johnson served on the defense teams of Trump’s Senate impeachment trials and was on the House Judiciary Committee prior to becoming speaker. When asked if he believed there is enough evidence to impeach Biden, Johnson told reporters on Wednesday, “To be very frank with you, very honest and transparent because I’ve been so busy with all my other responsibilities, I have not been able to take the time to do the deep dive in the evidence, but what has been uncovered is alarming.”

“I’m not going to prejudge it. I think we’re still in that process,” Johnson said of the inquiry. “And I know that people have gotten frustrated sometimes that it’s drug on too long. But, hey, in our constitutional system, this is the way it’s supposed to work.”

Staff for the trio of committees leading the inquiry meet regularly with the speaker’s office to provide updates on their work, but no decisions on how to end the inquiry have been made, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

“There have been no discussions about the end of the inquiry,” one of the sources familiar with the meetings told CNN. “Nothing has been pre-determined.”

Beyond criminal referrals, Republicans are also considering legislative reforms to federal ethics laws. While some want to wrap the probe up quickly, others believe there is an incentive to drag this investigation out until the 2024 presidential election to try to hurt the president politically.

“It depends on who you talk to,” GOP Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus said of the different opinions his colleagues have about what comes next for the investigation.

While there are several offshoots that Republicans are pursuing to delay the decision-making process, some Republicans are beginning to take stock about whether it is time to turn their attention elsewhere.

GOP Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, who supports impeaching Biden but acknowledges Republicans do not have the votes to do so, told CNN, “We are eight months away from a presidential election. We’ve done our job and laid a good case out there. Let’s move on. Our focus should be on getting Donald Trump elected.”

“If the impeachment vote would fail, how would that make us look?” Nehls asked.

As doubts begin to grow within GOP ranks about the prospects of a Biden impeachment and Republicans search for an off-ramp, Comer has also lowered expectations of what a successful end to the inquiry looks like, insisting his job was never to impeach and pointing to the Democratic-controlled Senate as a dead end. Republicans impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last month and have yet to send the articles over to the Senate.

“I would vote to impeach him, but I’m not going to lose any sleep whether he gets impeached or not because we know the Senate’s not going to convict,” Comer said, insisting, “My job was never to impeach.”

Even Jordan, whose committee would handle articles of impeachment if Republicans decided to take them up, has maintained that Republicans must make this decision as a conference.

Yet Trump, whose influence has loomed large over the House GOP agenda, has encouraged the push to impeach Biden and even said at a rally last month that Republicans “ought to impeach” the president for claiming without evidence that the president weaponized the legal system into bringing 88 charges across four criminal cases against him.

Both Jordan and Comer have recently interacted with Trump, but neither said the inquiry was discussed. Jordan, a close ally of the former president, was at Trump’s rally in Georgia on March 9 and then flew with the former president to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Miami.

“I don’t get into my conversations with the president,” Jordan said.

Comer said of his recent run in with Trump: “We exchanged pleasantries,” and his spokesperson added, “While having lunch with Vernon Hill in Florida, Congressman Comer unexpectedly ran into President Trump and they had a brief 10-minute conversation.”

The various threads Republicans are using to keep the inquiry alive

Comer has restarted a back and forth with Hunter Biden’s legal team to try and secure public testimony from the president’s son. Even though Hunter Biden initially pushed for a hearing instead of a closed-door interview, he eventually sat for a deposition and has since declined Comer’s request to appear at a hearing next week.

“Your blatant planned-for-media event is not a proper proceeding but an obvious attempt to throw a Hail Mary pass after the game has ended,” Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in a letter obtained by CNN.

Some Republicans have raised questions if a public hearing would even work in their favor, given the president’s son already was deposed for six hours and answered every question Republicans had for him about specific business deals, transactions and surface level interactions his father had with his business associates.

After the first hour of questioning in Hunter Biden’s closed-door deposition, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California turned to the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and made a surprising admission.

“He was well-prepared for the kind of questions,” Issa recounted of Hunter Biden.

Another Republican source described Comer as “being on his own island” for deciding to pursue a public hearing with the president’s son.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have lined up behind Comer to push for this hearing, and Comer has said the point of the hearing is to “iron out some of the discrepancies” he sees between Biden’s testimony and other closed-door interviews his panel has conducted.

Separately, Comer quietly subpoenaed AT&T for over 15 years’ worth of information affiliated with Hunter Biden by March 20, according to documents provided to CNN.

Meanwhile, Jordan still wants to talk to two Department of Justice tax attorneys involved in the Hunter Biden criminal probe whom the department has previously prevented from testifying.

And Republicans say they want the audio tapes of the president’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur that they subpoenaed DOJ for in the wake of Hur’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

Republicans also recently requested interviews and documents to probe whether a witness they interviewed in federal prison has been mistreated, straying from their stated purpose of investigating the president.

“There is no timeframe on doing congressional oversight,” Jordan told CNN.

GOP focus shifts away from impeachment probe

Investigating the Biden family and going after President Biden was a top priority for House Republicans when they reclaimed the majority and got control of committees.

But after 14 months, over 100,000 pages of documents and over 40 interviews including Biden family members, business associates, administration personnel, Department of Justice officials and Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers, Republicans have failed to uncover evidence to support their core allegations against the president.

GOP Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said: “Have I seen anything that is impeachable? No, I haven’t.”

Republicans have been skeptical their efforts would lead to impeachment for months, and some have suggested at this point it is better to let the voters decide in November.

GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who serves on the Judiciary panel, said he would impeach the president over his handling over the southern border, but “based on what I know on Hunter, you got to present a case, right? And so, I got to see that get laid out and as the clock is ticking to November, you got an election, let the people decide.”

GOP Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan, who serves on the Oversight Committee and supports impeachment, told CNN, “I think the American people want outcomes. They want change. They want policy change. So, do I think he is going to get impeached? No.”

It certainly is not an issue Republicans are pushing as one of their top priorities on the campaign trail as GOP House members look to grow their razor-thin majority in several competitive races.

The chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, told CNN, “Congress is still investigating, so it’s not really something in front of the candidates right now.”

GOP Rep. Nick LaLota of New York, who represents a district Biden carried in 2020, conceded this investigation was not his focus compared to the southern border, international issues and affordability for his constituents. “I’m focused on five or 10 things other than that right now,” he said.

Ultimately, Republicans admit that the final decision about impeachment will come down to whether they have the votes to pass it.

“This is a game of numbers,” Norman said.

And without the votes to overcome their shrinking margins, impeachment seems off the table.

GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana said the three Republican chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry have the same message: “They say we’re not in a position to go forward on impeachment.”

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