January 10

By Kaia Hubbard

House Republicans used their newfound control of the chamber Tuesday to lay the foundation for a string of expected investigations into the Biden administration, voting as a bloc to establish a panel that would look into the so-called “weaponization of the federal government.”

The creation of the subcommittee, housed under the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, follows months of talk from Republicans about their plans to hold President Joe Biden and those in his orbit accountable, flexing the limited abilities of their narrow majority in the House to spearhead a long list of investigations and possible impeachment inquiries.

The panel is billed as one tasked with looking into the authority of the executive branch “to collect information on or otherwise investigate citizens of the United States” and to delve into whether the branch has engaged in “illegal or improper, unconstitutional, or unethical activities” against U.S. citizens. But its scope appears to be broad, giving the panel the authority to investigate actions by a range of government agencies that House Republicans take issue with – and wield their newfound subpoena power to seek access to details about ongoing investigations in the process.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma claimed that the federal government has “abused its authority and violated the civil liberties of American citizens” while introducing a resolution to establish the committee on Tuesday, citing the federal government’s role in “suppressing information” on Twitter, the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to create a disinformation governance board and the discredited conspiracy theory that the Justice Department labeled some parents at school board meetings domestic terrorists, among other examples, which he said “demonstrate how prevalent such abusive actions have become.”

Indeed, House Republicans for months have enthusiastically shared the onslaught of investigations they have pledged to undertake, including a probe into the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter Biden, the origin of COVID-19, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and various investigations into recent actions by the Justice Department and the FBI – including those related to former President Donald Trump. But what in particular the new subcommittee chooses to take up remains to be seen.

Democrats were quick to criticize the panel on Tuesday, calling it an “awful idea,” a “monstrosity” that will “further empower extremists,” and at times referred to it as the “destroy democracy” and “insurrection protection” subcommittee. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said that the committee is “an assurance that we’re going to see these very partisan, political MAGA-driven investigations go forward.”

“This committee is nothing more than a deranged ploy by the MAGA extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party and now want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense,” McGovern said on Tuesday, adding that, with the move, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is “essentially handing Mr. Jordan the power to target anyone and anything he doesn’t like.”

Though the makeup of the panel is yet to be decided, it’s expected to be helmed by Jordan, who served as one of Trump’s leading defenders during his impeachment trials and has become a close ally of McCarthy.

Jordan described the panel as a safeguard to Americans’ constitutional rights on Tuesday.

“This is about the First Amendment,” Jordan said, claiming that the freedoms protected under the First Amendment have each been “attacked” by the federal government. “We want to respect the First Amendment to the Constitution that the greatest country in the world has – that’s what this committee is all about.”

Meanwhile, Democrats decried that the subcommittee is the result of the stalemate during last week’s speaker vote, which gave a group of far-right detractors significant power to wield in the new House Republican majority in exchange for their support or their neutrality.

“Today, we have the first of their many demands on display – an open-ended investigation into whatever conspiracy theories may be headlining the right-wing echo chamber at the moment with unchecked authority to undermine ongoing criminal and intelligence investigations,” Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York said of the hard-line conservatives’ influence on the conference.

Moreso, Democrats insisted on Tuesday that Republicans will use the panel to attempt to shut down ongoing investigations into their own “wrongdoings,” perhaps in a nod to Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania who has expressed interest in becoming a member of the committee despite being a subject of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation into the insurrection at the Capitol in early 2021.

Rep. Dan Goldman of New York said the panel’s primary purpose is “to interfere with the special council’s ongoing investigation into the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election,” while Rep. Adam Schiff of California – a member of the now-defunct Jan. 6 committee – said the panel is intended to “undermine the legitimate investigation of President Trump’s incitement of a violent attack” on the Capitol.

The move on Tuesday came after the Republicans approved a rules package in the House on Monday evening in a nearly party-line vote with little fanfare compared to the days-long endeavor to elect a speaker that plagued the chamber just last week, before wasting no time in moving to their first legislative priority of the year – voting to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service. The bill was the first in a series of legislation with abysmal prospects in the upper chamber that Republicans are expected to pursue during the next two years of divided government – many of which are geared at undercutting Biden administration policies.

“All the MAGA Republicans seem to want to do is create a forum for settling scores and pushing conspiracy theories,” McGovern said on Tuesday. “They’re not interested in governing.”