Increasingly, the price for GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy to become Speaker is to approve a two-year long, all GOP "Select Committee" to investigate everything they can think of, along with regular subpoenas, prime-time hearings, and a nearly unlimited mandate.
Conservatives say they want to model the panel off the 1970s Church Committee, which conducted a landmark investigation that uncovered significant surveillance abuses among the intelligence community and the IRS, leading to the formation of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But it’s a high bar that’s almost certain to fall short. While the Church Committee was a bipartisan operation, Democrats have frequently criticized the GOP’s targeting of the FBI, and their party is highly unlikely to help fuel probes they’ve already derided as political sideshows.
And Democrats are already gearing up to rebut GOP investigations next year. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who will be on the frontlines as the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, summed up how he views his party’s responsibilities as it deals with Republican probes: “a truth squad in the sense that we will have to debunk conspiracy theories.”
And a former senior aide to the Democratic senator who chaired the Church Committee has also criticized Republicans for trying to make the Church comparison specifically, accusing them of wanting to invoke “Church’s legacy not to push for real solutions … but to obtain impunity for themselves and punish their enemies.”
But underscoring how much the “Church” rhetoric has injected itself into the party’s thinking, McCarthy, during a recent Fox Business appearance, tipped his hand toward the idea, saying that “you’re almost going to have to have a Church-style investigation to reform the FBI.”
McCarthy, notably, didn’t specifically mention setting up a new committee, and those comments would also align with previously planned investigations. The ambiguous comments come as the Californian tries to lock down the votes to claim the speaker’s gavel in a thin majority and wants to avoid alienating any more members. A spokesperson for the GOP leader didn’t respond to multiple questions about whether McCarthy was endorsing starting a new panel, or just an investigation into the Justice Department and FBI, which is already in the works.
It’s hardly the first time he’s faced pressure from his right flank to acquiesce to going further on investigations.House Republicans say they now expect to probe the treatment of individuals who were jailed for participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, where a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the building as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s win. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) previously pressed McCarthy on an investigation last month during a closed-door conference meeting.
Comer noted that there was an ongoing discussion about which panel “needs to take the lead on that,” adding that the Oversight Committee will have “a lot on the platter but we’ll do whatever we’re asked to do from leadership.”McCarthy has also threatened to subpoena intelligence officials who signed a letter in 2020 warning that a New York Post story about Biden’s son Hunter might have its origins in a Russian disinformation operation. And conservatives also think they’ve moved McCarthy on impeaching Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He hasn’t officially backed the step, but opened the door initially in April and then signaled an impeachment could be on the table, depending on the results of investigations, during a trip to the southern border in November.
Asked about the California Republican’s remarks, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — whom McCarthy opponents have used as a figurehead for the opposition — noted that McCarthy’s latest border remarks came “after he knew that he was facing somebody who was going to possibly deny him being speaker.”
But conservatives’ vision for the new select committee could stretch far beyond just the FBI and Justice Department — two long-running targets of the party’s ire — by stepping into other jurisdictional lanes.
Roy pointed to three other entities that could fall under its purview, in addition to the FBI and Justice Department: Fauci and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Education and the IRS and money that will let the agency hire new staff. Those are all areas that other committees have indicated they plan to investigate. And while Roy acknowledged that potential overlap, he added, “You still want your best prosecutors prosecuting the case.”