“There’s no question the appearance is not good,” Romney told reporters, adding that he is still “considering” his vote.
Republicans hold a slim 8-6 majority, and if just one GOP senator joins all Democrats, it would mean a 7-7 tie that would result in a failure to issue the subpoena.
Romney’s concerns appeared to be heightened on Thursday after President Donald Trump declared in a Fox News interview Wednesday night that he would seek to use the issue against Biden if he secures the Democratic nomination.
Romney suggested Thursday that the panel shouldn’t even be looking into the issue.
“I would prefer that investigations are done by an independent, nonpolitical body,” said Romney, who split with his party when he voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the committee’s chairman, declined to comment on Romney’s views but said he sees “no reason why anybody would object” to the subpoena, which seeks documents from Blue Star, a Democratic public affairs firm, about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. It would be the first subpoena as part of the committee’s probe.
Johnson’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, has opposed the committee’s investigation and the subpoena.
Peters has raised concerns about the veracity of the information the committee receives — in particular, whether it’s part of a Russia disinformation campaign. Several Republicans — including Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — have expressed similar worries both in private and in public.
“Quite frankly, the Homeland Security Committee should be focusing on issues related to homeland security,” Peters said. When asked about whether he thinks he can defeat the subpoena effort, he said: “I think it’s uncertain. I don’t know how it’s going to go right now.”
Peters said he hasn’t yet talked about the subpoena with Romney, but said he was likely to speak directly with him before Wednesday’s vote in an effort to sway him.
Another potential swing vote, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said he, too, remains undecided and was unable to review the documents as of Thursday morning because he was chairing a hearing.
“I want to be supportive of Chairman Johnson and be sure that we’re getting the right information. It should be objective information, and let the American people decide,” said Portman, who voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial but was critical of his conduct.
Asked about Trump’s comments about the Burisma issue, Portman said: “That doesn’t surprise me.”
A source familiar with the matter, though, said Portman is leaning toward supporting the subpoena. Johnson has told colleagues that his effort is aimed simply at gathering information.
Marianne LeVine and Martin Matishak contributed to this report.