Updated Mar 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Hunter, Bowser, COVID origins: House GOP plots investigations

Illustration of the Capitol Dome with hands pointing out from behind it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Republicans who'd assume control of oversight committees should their party return to power next year are sketching out familiar targets: Hunter Biden, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the origins of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: President Biden and the Democratic Party have been able to control the government narrative to a degree through their unified control of the White House and Congress. A GOP majority in even one chamber would trigger fresh scrutiny of the executive branch and upheaval in the legislative branch.

  • The shift in power also would occur in the run-up to the 2024 election, when Donald Trump is hinting at mounting another campaign for the presidency.
  • Congressional oversight has the potential to fuel campaign opposition research.

Driving the news: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have narrowed their key priorities down to a "big three," according to an aide with knowledge of the party's oversight plans.

  • Hunter Biden: The president's son would likely be called to testify about his past foreign business dealings, especially in relation to Ukraine, and it could escalate to a subpoena fight if he refuses to appear voluntarily, the aide said.
  • Muriel Bowser: The panel would also seek testimony from the District's mayor about her plan to tackle rising crime in D.C., and to discuss the city's remaining coronavirus restrictions and vaccine mandates.
  • COVID-19: More than two years after the pandemic began, oversight committees would be "aggressively probing" whether coronavirus was man-made, as well as scrutinizing U.S. funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Axios is told.

What they're saying: "Normally, I would say that the children are off-limits," said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. He confirmed the "big three" concept of targets.

  • "But, whether you're talking about Hunter Biden or even the Trump children, these are very active in the political process," Comer continued. "I think they're fair game — if you find any wrongdoing."
  • Comer said he also wants to look into Hunter Biden's confidential sales of his artwork during his father's presidency.

The big picture: Republicans on other committees overseeing parts of the government also are embracing the GOP's cause célèbres in their plans for a congressional majority.

  • A spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee's Republican caucus told Axios they "will continue to focus on the crisis at the southern border, the politicization of law enforcement at the Department of Justice and FBI, and Big Tech censorship."

The bottom line: Many of these plans draw from a GOP messaging playbook that's been in use since the 2020 campaign.

They also appear geared toward drumming up support for the base ahead of this year's midterms.

  • Comer said GOP leaders are "absolutely" on board with the GOP's Oversight panel's "big three," which, he said, "you'll hear more and more from Republicans the next few months as we campaign to flip the House."
  • "You're going to hear [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy and [House Minority Whip] Steve Scalise and our entire conference talk about oversight being at the top of the list, because there is no oversight of the Biden administration ... because the Democrats are in the majority."

Editor's note: This story originally published on March 1.

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