On his way to a vote on a recent afternoon, House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., noted that he and his counterpart on the House Judiciary Panel, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ky. Ohio, they are spending a lot of time together these days.
“We talk every day, we had breakfast together this morning, we work together, no problem there,” the Kentucky congressman told NPR. “He knows what we’re doing. We know what he’s doing. Our staff are close, our meeting rooms are next to each other. So we work very well together.”
On Wednesday, House Republicans will hold their first set of hearings to launch a new oversight of the Biden administration and Democrats.
With the White House and Senate in Democrat hands, the hearings are part of a long laundry list that the House GOP hopes to tackle this session of Congress, a list that could also involve subpoenas being issued as part of their investigations.
The first meeting of the Judiciary Committee will cover what Republicans have dubbed “The Biden Border Crisis,” part of the GOP’s analysis of immigration and security concerns at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Meanwhile, Comer says the first oversight committee hearing will focus on spending related to pandemic relief bills, which he says didn’t receive enough scrutiny when Democrats controlled the House.
“There has been a lot of waste, fraud and abuse reported with respect to stimulus funds, IPR, loan funds, unemployment funds and everything in between,” Comer said. “So we’ll roll up our sleeves and start there.”
At the same time, the Comer-led panel is conducting an investigation into the Biden family and its business dealings. But Republicans have uncovered no new evidence to support their claims of improper behavior.
Democrats say the focus on Biden is more about politics than legitimate oversight.
“The Democratic position is that legislative oversight is the key tool in making sure we’re actually implementing our laws and our public programs. And that’s what we should be doing,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top House Democrat Oversight Committee.
Republicans, who won a narrow House majority in the midterm elections, have campaigned to pledge to probe Democrats. And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly stressed that his conference will take over the oversight of the Bidens and various federal agencies.
“One thing that Congress has, we have a constitutional responsibility to oversee the Justice Department,” McCarthy said. “And that also means that these…individuals are investigating. We have the constitutional power to do it, and we will.”
Republicans say there are many plans in store to oversee the Justice Department and the FBI. A push from hardline conservatives resulted in the formation of a new select subset of the judiciary on “arming the federal government.” The subgroup will be tasked with investigating claims that government employees have been politically targeting Republicans. Jordan said it was ready to issue subpoenas if necessary.
“We will issue the subpoenas and try to get the information, the documents that we need,” Jordan recently told reporters. “And if they give us the chance, they give us the chance. … I guess I expect that.”
Raskin says many of these Republican investigations are politically driven, but he also says there is room for cooperation between the parties.
For example, both Comer and Raskin agreed that there could be legislative fixes to avoid future concerns of classified documents being mishandled by White House occupants, given recent discoveries related to former President Trump during his tenure and President Biden as vice president of the Obama administration.
“You know, I think we all agree and Raskin said this too… that there is a need for reform,” Comer said. “So eventually, hopefully, we’ll talk to the National Archives and try to understand the seriousness of the problem.”
However, Raskin warns, extremist claims shouldn’t make it past the GOP’s investigation.
“Oversight is not about spreading scandal and being attached to other kids. Public oversight is about making sure the government works for the people,” he said.
That stance is part of a new, larger battle that will unfold publicly, pitting House Republicans against Democrats in what is expected to be a long series of investigations and hearings to come.