The Reporter (Vacaville)
House GOP casts wide net for investigations
WASHINGTON >> The security at the U.S. border with Mexico. The origins of COVID-19. The treatment of parents who protest “woke” school board policies.
These are among the far-reaching and politically charged investigations House Republicans are launching, along with probes of President Joe Biden and his family, an ambitious oversight agenda that taps into the concerns of hard-right conservatives but risks alienating other Americans focused on different priorities.
Republicans have tasked every House committee with developing an oversight budget, and GOP leaders are educating rank-and-file lawmakers — many have never had subpoena powers — with howto courses including “Investigations 101.” They plan to take their investigations on the road to stir public interest, including a border hearing this week in Yuma, Arizona.
“We have a constitutional duty to do oversight,” Rep. Jim Jordan told The Associated Press in an interview. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and its powerful new select subcommittee on what Republicans call the “weaponization” of the federal government.
Jordan, R-Ohio, said his goal is “to figure out what legislative changes need to be made to help stop the egregious behavior that we discovered.”
The approach is all part of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's effort to steer his new majority to one of the core roles of the legislative branch, oversight of the executive, as he promised voters ahead of the fall election. But powered by some of the more firebrand figures in the GOP, the investigations pose a highrisk, high-reward proposition that is quickly drowning out much of the other House business.
The first hearing of the “weaponization” of the federal government, perhaps the signature panel of the new House majority ostensibly modeled after the post-Watergate Church Commission, devolved into a litany of allegations and theories about the Bidens, the FBI and the coronavirus, among others. The farflung ideas are familiar to consumers of conservative media, and often linked, but may not necessarily be top of mind for the wider public.
Timothy Naftali, a professor at New York University and a scholar of the Nixon era, said congressional oversight is one of the functions of good governance, but he warned that “one of the possible downsides is you end up with paralysis.”
“Oversight is healthy,” Naftali said. “Then it's a question of what the goal of oversight is.”
Naftali said that while Americans may share many of the same questions and concerns Republicans are raising on topics such as the origins of COVID-19 or the ability of the FBI to investigate Americans, he warned against a rising “performative nature” of Congress that results in political grandstanding without concrete legislative or policy solutions.
“It's potentially very healthy if these investigations are animated by an empiricism — an ability to get to the facts,” he said. “But I'm not convinced of that.”
Rather than focus on a singular mission — as happened with the impeachment probes of President Donald Trump by Democrats or the Republican investigations of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya — Republicans have cast a net both deep and wide.
McCarthy, of Bakersfield, laid out a road map last year and gathered key congressional staff for training sessions even before Republicans won the House majority in the fall election, according to a senior GOP leadership aide who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private machinations.