Jan 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Oversight Committee becomes ground zero for partisan clashes

Data: Axios research; Note: does not include an exhaustive list of all House committees; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: Axios research; Note: does not include an exhaustive list of all House committees; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have sent more letters to the Biden administration since 2021 than any other panel, making it the epicenter of a political war that will define the next two years on Capitol Hill, according to an Axios analysis.

Why it matters: House Republicans have made a conscious choice to appoint several of their most pugilistic, conspiratorial-minded members to the Oversight Committee — a risky bet that the Biden White House is already seizing on.

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who on Wednesday proclaimed herself the "leading MAGA voice in Congress," has lent her support to QAnon conspiracies and endorsed the idea of executing Democratic leaders before she was elected.
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) posted, then deleted, an altered anime video of himself on Twitter in 2021 that depicted him executing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) played a role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election and sought a pardon from the Trump White House, according to the Jan. 6 committee.
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has a history of racist and Islamophobic remarks and has boasted about her attempt to block the certification of President Biden’s 2020 election.

Between the lines: Republicans are eager to use their majority to hold the Biden administration's feet to the fire after two years of unified Democratic government. Democrats, meanwhile, believe embracing the coming public spectacle will backfire for the GOP at the ballot box.

Zoom out: The 130+ Republican oversight letters tracked by Axios span five standing committees, over three dozen topics and over 90 individuals or entities, including at least 12 members of Biden's Cabinet.

The intrigue: Several committees have carved out stakes pursuing the same issue, creating the potential for conflict over witness interviews, hearings and coveted attention in the media ecosystem.

  • House Oversight and House Foreign Affairs, for instance, are both investigating the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, albeit from different angles.
  • House Judiciary, House Energy & Commerce and House Oversight are all going after tech companies for alleged censorship.
  • Other investigative targets that have thus far received a smaller volume of outreach but are sure to remain top priorities for Republicans include infrastructure spending, the IRS and the U.S-Mexico border.

Between the lines: Since oversight requests don't carry over from Congress to Congress, all letters sent last session will have to be renewed. In the face of noncompliance, those requests will have to be enforced through the threat of subpoenas, followed by subpoenas themselves.

  • In addition to the standing committees, three select committees are also building out their investigative agendas and staffing up over the next few weeks.
  • Those select committees, which have not started their investigative work, will focus on the "weaponization of the federal government," U.S.-China competition and the origins of COVID-19.
  • The Axios analysis does not include an exhaustive list of Republican committees.

The bottom line: In an era in which companies and public officials are increasingly likely to put up resistance, committees could be forced to ruthlessly prioritize their targets.

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