House Republicans will push their long-planned investigations into the spotlight this week with hearings on the U.S.-Mexico border and COVID-19 relief spending programs, providing a first glimpse of how GOP leaders will use the biggest tools they have against Democrats and the Biden administration — and how they will set the tone for the 2024 election cycle.
The House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing of the new Congress will be on “The Biden Border Crisis: Part I,” led by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee, led by Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), will have a hearing on waste, fraud and abuse in federal pandemic spending.
“I don’t think history will be kind to the PPP loan program,” Comer said at a National Press Club event on Monday, referring to a program that provided businesses with forgivable loans. “I think it’ll be eventually viewed in the same manner that the big bank bailouts were when people find out where a lot of that money was going.”
And the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Challenges and Opportunities to Investigating the Origins of Pandemics and Other Biological Events” as a part of its probe into the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus’s origins.
They’re just the tip of the iceberg for planned investigatory hearings and actions.
Republicans had been plotting extensive investigations into the Biden administration for more than a year before the midterm elections. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in preparation for taking the House majority, organized GOP members into “task forces” to come up with oversight and legislative priorities. Republican members of committees started investigations last year when they were in the minority.
Republicans now have control over committee hearing topics, a better chance of getting answers from administration officials, and are armed with subpoena power to compel testimony and documents — though no committee has used it yet.
Next week, the Oversight panel is set to hold a hearing on the U.S.-Mexico border and a hearing with former Twitter employees about the platform’s suppression of the New York Post’s story on the Hunter Biden hard drive in 2020.
The Oversight panel is also taking action on an extensive probe into the business dealings of President Biden’s family, with a large focus on Hunter Biden. And a revived Oversight subcommittee on the COVID-19 pandemic is also planning to probe the origins of the virus.
The House Oversight, Judiciary and Intelligence committees have also sought information relating to President Biden’s handling of classified information. The House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees are expected to revisit the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021.
The ultimate showstopper may be the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government under the House Judiciary Committee, a panel created after those who had opposed McCarthy for Speaker demanded a “Church-style” committee, in reference to a 1975 Senate select committee named for former Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) that investigated intelligence agencies.
In anticipation of aggressive Republican investigations, several outside groups have popped up to push back on the GOP narrative.
“Congressional Republicans today have no other calling than to engage in character assassination that distracts from real issues, creates a false perception of corruption, runs up legal bills and threatens the livelihoods of those caught in the web of their lies,” former Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said at an event this month for Facts First USA, one of those groups.
Comer, for one, is hoping that his handling of the hearings will bring a sense of legitimacy to his probes. His panel is packed with right-wing GOP firebrands such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (Pa.).
“If I wanted to have a big political hearing that was full of red meat, we would have victims’ families that lost their lives to fentanyl. We would have people that have been human trafficked. But we’re not. We just asked four Border Patrol bosses,” Comer said, referring to his request to have four Border Patrol agents testify in a Feb. 6 hearing.
Comer said that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is refusing to allow those agents to testify and has accused DHS of “obstructing congressional oversight.” DHS had offered testimony from Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, but expressed concern about disrupting operations if the four lower-level officials testified in person, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
The Judiciary panel, in contrast to Comer’s thinking, on Wednesday will bring as a witness Brandon Dunn, the stepfather of a teen son who died from a fentanyl overdose and co-founder of an organization to raise awareness about fentanyl.
Other Republican witnesses for Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing will be Terrell County, Texas, Judge Dale Lynn Carruthers and Cochise County, Ariz., Sheriff Mark Dannels.
Republican witnesses for the Oversight hearing will be Michael Horowitz, chair of a pandemic oversight committee under the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency; Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general at the U.S. Government Accountability Office; and David M. Smith, Assistant Director in the Secret Service Office of Investigations.
Updated at 9:31 a.m.