Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the House Minority Leader closest to the House, told his Democratic colleagues to think about the next two years this way: The White House is the client, Democrats are the advocate. Indeed, the Biden administration has assembled a team of legal, legislative and communications professionals to identify potential GOP control vectors and recruit more to the effort. Ashley Etienne, who led the Democrats’ congressional impeachment war room, sent senior officials to liaison posts at the federal agencies Republicans said they wanted to investigate: the Department of Homeland Security (over border security), Health and Human Services (over COVID) ) , and Education (awakened activity).
After all, Democrats know how Republicans intend to use their control of the House of Representatives. Indeed, GOP lawmakers have been saying this out loud for months. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the incoming chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, said Republicans will use their oversight powers to “shape the 2024 race” — a race they “need to make sure that [Trump] wins.” Meanwhile, House Speaker James Comer (R-Ky.) vowed that the intensity of the investigation into his committee would “prevent him from nominating Joe Biden for another term.”
The stakes harken back to a not-so-distant era on Capitol Hill, when the tea party took control of the House midway through Barack Obama’s first term — when then-Speaker Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was in charge. The House Oversight Committee promised to deliver after the 2010 midterm elections: “I want to hold seven meetings a week, 40 times a week.” With little hope of advancing legislation in a divided government, Republicans want to scrutinize everything from Covid to critical race theory.
To lawmakers and activists of both parties who survived that era of GOP questioning, they warn that this new regime will bring much of the same — only worse. Eric Schultz, who was deputy White House press secretary at the time, said: “This crop of Republicans in the House of Representatives, Darrell Issa, is intellectual.”
After House Republicans swept the House in a landslide in the 2010 midterm elections, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave his new majority a mandate: “We’re in the communications business now,” Kurt recalls. Bardella, who worked in this election. the spokesman of Jesus. Issa’s House Oversight Committee was the nerve center of the directive, tasked with questioning and amplifying any whiff of scandal from the Obama administration. While many leaders were eyeing their new Tea Party majority, Issa welcomed some new lawmakers, such as Reps. Trey Gowdy (RSC) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to his committee..
Their work began in earnest with the Obama administration’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, a George W. Bush-era program that allowed illegal arms sales to go after Mexican drug cartels. In September 2011, the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigated the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The committee had then-Energy Secretary Stephen Chu testify before Congress for more than five hours. A year later, Islamic militants attacked the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, killing three Americans. The attack prompted ten separate investigations by the Obama administration.
None of the investigations have ever really uncovered serious wrongdoing, but that hasn’t stopped the surveillance from attracting the attention of the political media industrial complex. “There was a deliberate strategy for communication: Water the area and take advantage of media competition with each other to disrupt things,” Bardella said. A recent appearance Politics and its thirst for microscopes enhanced the DC media landscape, playing right into the committee’s hands. Republicans can milk four or five news cycles out of a single request for information with the following formula: “Step one, file a voluntary document request; the second step, threat to challenge; step three, issue the subpoena,” Bardella said. Never mind that the coverage rarely asked hard questions about the veracity of what was being investigated. “I don’t think the reporters and Washington didn’t realize how irresponsible the Republicans were. want,” said Schultz.
Boehner, by some measures, will regret his mandate, as his colleagues who delegated him made more demanding demands than Obama administration officials. The House ignored Attorney General Eric Holder during the fast-and-furious investigation into Congress, but GOP lawmakers asked for more — something Boehner dismissed as illegal. Indeed, former Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who led the Solyndra investigation, said Boehner’s lack of support took the wind out of the sails of his investigation. “He said he felt like we were neglecting congresses too much and that ours wasn’t as important as other congresses,” Stearns recalled. “That’s the kind of thing that caused Boehner to lose.”
The Solyndra probe comes after Republicans argued that political allies were repaid before taxpayers for their investment in the bankrupt solar panel maker. But GOP lawmakers could never prove that — and, in fact, the program is made A 2014 report from NPR found that helped accelerate growth in renewable energy companies.
A Bochner-era brake pump is harder to find in this Congress. After his departure for the caucus, Kevin McCarthy, the new Speaker of the House, is not in a position to investigate much — and he has shown no interest in holding back when it comes to scrutinizing the Biden administration. The only thing that seems to be hitting McCarthy too hard is the more than a dozen impeachment resolutions against Biden and various administration officials. “I think the country really doesn’t like impeachment being used for political purposes,” McCarthy said. Punchbowl News in October.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Green (R-Ga.), who will resume her committee duties after being ousted by Democrats in the last Congress, says she wants to serve on the Oversight Committee — a request incoming Chairman Comer said he welcomes.
Do the Democrats have a chance in this new era? Veterans of the 2010 GOP investigation say the right Democratic envoys to key committees can help. Bardella recalls that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) committed a rare violation of Democratic seniority when she appointed Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in 2011 as the ranking member of the House of Representatives. “Cummings had a political mind. and knew how to communicate effectively — he was the perfect foil for Issa,” Bardella recalls. was chosen to lead the Control, a choice Bardella praised.
Another advantage for Democrats, veterans say, is that the GOP continues to zero in on the culture wars. Ashley Etienne, who ran Cummings’ communications during that period, remembers Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University student who GOP lawmakers refused to allow to testify at their oversight hearing on contraception. The GOP denial of Fluke’s testimony resulted. When Democrats allowed her to testify later in an independent hearing, they got a nearly two-week positive news cycle — fueled in part by voters’ fears about the future of abortion rights. Bardella says Democrats should take advantage of the time Republicans are trying to debate issues related to trans rights. “If they go after the LBGTQ community and the hospitals that treat them, Democrats can put a human face on it,” Bardella said. “If you have members of Congress out there vilifying a patient who’s telling this story, that’s not going to be good.”
And perhaps most of all, the GOP polls look more pointless than ever. “At least with Benghazi and Fast and Furious, these are at least acts of leadership,” said one Democratic official who works on surveillance research. “When you cross the Rubicon with ‘Dr. Fauci colluding with China to start the pandemic’ or ‘Hunter Biden’s work abroad is why the strategic oil reserve is running out’ – those are just conspiracy theories.”
“We were more bipartisan back then — I don’t think we would be bipartisan today,” Stearns says. “If it’s like a political witch hunt, you lose your authenticity.”
However, Democrats take the GOP’s goals seriously. The White House and White House Democrats are keeping an open line of communication about surveillance preparations. Jeffries was chosen to lead the House Democrats because of his discipline as the party’s messenger, a trait he emphasized while serving as Trump’s impeachment manager. They are also preparing a counterattack of sorts: The Senate remains under Democratic control, and its leadership has new plans to keep investigations into the Trump administration. “Hunter Biden’s laptop is nothing compared to what Jared and Ivanka have done in the federal government,” Bardella said. “It should be noted every day.”