In one of their first acts since retaking control of the House of Representatives, Republicans established a new panel Tuesday that plans to investigate everything from the Justice Department’s handling of death threats against local school officials to the special counsel’s ongoing probe of former President Donald Trump.
Republican leaders have said the panel will curb the “weaponization” of government against Americans and promised to use it to curb alleged abuses by the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The panel will also focus on alleged coordination between social media giants and the federal government.
“The weaponization of the federal government against individual Americans must end,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., tweeted Tuesday. “House Republicans are on it.”
In a party-line vote, lawmakers approved the creation of the panel Tuesday afternoon, with 220 Republicans voting in favor and 211 Democrats voting against.
“This is about the First Amendment, something you guys used to care about,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who will also run the new investigative committee, said at a Tuesday press conference.
The new committee, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to create in order to end last week’s standoff with hard-right House members, will include 15 members including Jordan, and an as-yet-to-be decided number of Democrats that could include Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. House leaders are still in the process of selecting the rank-and-file members of committees, but the new panel could easily include lawmakers who participated in the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and are the subject of their own federal probes.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., who had his phone seized by federal agents for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election, could be one of the top members on the panel along with other House Republicans who sought pardons from Trump after the Capitol riot.
Democrats have accused Republicans of a blatant conflict of interest regarding the new panel.
“This time, they’re trying to protect themselves,” said Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the first impeachment of Trump before running for Congress in 2022.
The new investigative panel could be the most consequential change put in place by the Republican-controlled House. Republican measures, like the proposal approved Monday to scrap the hiring of thousands of new Internal Revenue Service staff members, are highly unlikely to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, much less to secure Biden’s signature into law.
Republican leaders have repeatedly compared the new panel to the Church Committee — an oversight panel created in 1975 and led by then-Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, which uncovered shocking secret programs run by the government, including mind-control experimentation and efforts to assassinate foreign leaders.
“It’s official — we now have a Church-style Committee to investigate the weaponization of the federal government,” Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., said in a tweet following Tuesday’s vote. “Let's get to work!”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the new panel sounded more like one run by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the anticommunist demagogue, in the 1950s.
“It’s simply about revenge, it’s about disrupting and destroying, rather than collaborating and creating,” McGovern said Tuesday. “This subcommittee is an awful idea.”
Lawmakers also said Tuesday that they plan to investigate Biden’s handling of classified material discovered recently at a university think tank from his time as vice president. New House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer compared it to the FBI searching Trump’s Florida abode last summer and removing boxes of highly sensitive material and accused the Justice Department of maintaining a “two-tier system of justice.”
But several notable differences between the two cases quickly became apparent. Trump and his lawyers repeatedly hid their documents from investigators and had hundreds of pages of sensitive material, while Biden’s team handed over roughly 10 documents to the National Archives after discovering them in a locked closet at a university think tank.