When Republicans secure a narrow House majority, which appears likely as vote counting continues, it will mean an aggressive oversight agenda in the new year, something the Biden administration largely has avoided from Congress in its first two years.
As of Sunday afternoon, Republicans appeared to control 212 House seats after midterm elections Tuesday—only six short of the 218 needed for a majority in the 435-member chamber. Democrats apparently had won 204 House seats, according to RealClearPolitics, with 19 races yet to be decided.
It’s a different story in the Senate, though, where Democrats will hold on to their majority if The Associated Press proves to have been correct Saturday in calling Nevada’s Senate race for incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, as vote counting continued. (With Nevada in their column, Democrats won’t need to win the runoff election next month in the Georgia Senate race, AP noted.)
On Wednesday, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California announced his bid for speaker of the House. Although a predicted “red wave” didn’t materialize as voting concluded Tuesday, Republicans will control House committees whether they have a one-seat or a 20-seat majority.
Although other topics could arise, congressional Republicans already have stated plans to look into controversies surrounding the business dealings of Hunter Biden and other members of the president’s family, the crisis on the southern border, the politicization of the Justice Department, and even talk of impeachments.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., likely will go from ranking member to incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Here are eight investigations to expect under GOP leadership of the House in the coming year.
1. Hunter Biden and Beyond
The FBI presented enough evidence to Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss to charge Hunter Biden with tax crimes and lying on a gun purchase form, The Washington Post reported in early October.
Republicans in Congress, noting the Chinese business interests of President Joe Biden’s son, say the problem is significantly larger.
In a written statement last week to The Daily Signal, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who will take over as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said:
Oversight Republicans are investigating the domestic and international business dealings of President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and other Biden associates and family members to determine whether these activities compromise U.S. national security and President Biden’s ability to lead with impartiality.
Hunter and other members of the Biden family have a pattern of peddling access to the highest levels of government to enrich themselves. The American people deserve to know whether the president’s connections to his family’s business deals occurred at the expense of American interests and whether they represent a national security threat.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to top Justice Department officials arguing that the foreign business dealings could be much broader and could include other members of the Biden family, including the president.
“These documents also indicate that Joe Biden was aware of Hunter Biden’s business arrangements and may have been involved in some of them,” Grassley says in his Oct. 13 letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware.
“Based on recent protected disclosures to my office,” Grassley wrote, “the FBI has within its possession significant, impactful and voluminous evidence with respect to potential criminal conduct by Hunter Biden and [the president’s brother] James Biden.”
Grassley provided 30 pages of documents collected by the committee—some from whistleblowers within the FBI who allege that the bureau has been holding back.
The documents include details of a contract designed to funnel $5 million from a Chinese government-connected firm, CEFC, to Hunter Biden and James Biden to compensate them for work done while Joe Biden was vice president in the Obama administration.
2. Border Crisis
Republicans say they also plan to hold the Biden administration accountable for the crisis of rampant illegal immigration across the southern border.
“We will also continue our oversight of President Biden’s border crisis that has led to historic illegal immigration, a surge of deadly drugs pouring across the border, and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars,” Comer said in his written statement. “We will hold the Biden administration accountable for this self-inflicted crisis.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Mexican cartels’ income from smuggling illegal immigrants across the border into the United States soared from $500 million in 2018 to $13 billion in 2022—a 2,500% jump.
Border Patrol agents apprehended 951,568 illegal immigrants during President Donald Trump’s final 19 months in office, but caught 3.5 million in Biden’s first 19 months as president—a 377% increase.
As of early October, the Border Patrol had encountered at least 266,000 unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border since Biden took office, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In September, 14 House Republicans wrote Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to say that “between October 2021 and July 2022, more than 130,000 Venezuelan nationals were encountered after entering the United States illegally.”
The GOP lawmakers argued that the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States.”
In August, 12 GOP senators wrote to Ronald Davis, director of the U.S. Marshals Service to say: “So far in FY22, [Customs and Border Protection] has apprehended over 9,000 criminal aliens, including 53 for homicide or manslaughter, 283 for sex crimes, and almost 900 for assault, battery, and domestic violence.”
For the federal government, fiscal year 2022 ended Sept. 30.
3. Probing Big Tech
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., likely the incoming chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said that House Republicans’ “Big Tech Accountability Platform” would focus on China.
Specifically, GOP lawmakers would focus on how tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google allow data to go to China.
“Companies with deep ties to China raise significant concerns about China’s access to American information,” the memo from McMorris Rodgers to fellow GOP members says, adding:
To address this concern, we will consider new transparency obligations, such as
Requiring companies to notify American users if those companies send, maintain, or store their personal information in China.
Requiring companies to notify American users if those companies are owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a Chinese state-owned entity, or a non-state-owned entity located in China.
In August, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sought information from White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy about possible collusion with Big Tech firms to censor criticism of the Biden administration’s environmental policies.
GOP members also raised concerns about former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s involvement with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
4. COVID-19 Origins
Comer, the likely incoming chairman, told The Daily Signal last week that the House Oversight and Reform Committee also would investigate the origins of COVID-19.
The probe would focus on three key facts, the Kentucky Republican said.
First, the panel would examine growing evidence that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 likely originated in a research lab in Wuhan, China, and that the Communist Party of China covered it up.
Secondly, Comer said, oversight Republicans would focus on whether U.S. taxpayer dollars were funneled to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to conduct risky experimental research on bat coronaviruses. This also is known as “gain-of-function research.”
Third, Comer said the committee would explore whether Dr. Anthony Fauci, the retiring director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was aware of this information at the start of the pandemic. And, he said, the panel would investigate whether Fauci or other federal officials acted to conceal facts and intentionally downplay the “lab leak” theory.
“We will continue this oversight to hold U.S. government officials accountable for any wrongdoing and ensure Americans’ tax dollars aren’t being used on risky research at unsecure labs,” Comer said.
In August, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health, telling the agency to maintain its records on COVID-19 and specifying the NIH subagency headed by Fauci.
“Specifically, I request you preserve all records, email, electronic documents, and data created by or shared with Dr. Fauci during his tenure at NIH that relate to COVID-19 including, but not limited to, NIAID-funded coronavirus research,” the Paul letter says. It continues:
This preservation request also includes all records of official business conducted on non-official accounts. For purposes of this request, ‘preserve’ shall be construed to mean taking reasonable steps to prevent the partial or full destruction, alteration, testing, deletion, shredding, incineration, wiping, relocation, migration, theft, mutation, or negligent or reckless handling that could render the information incomplete or inaccessible.
5. Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal
Republicans say they also intend to investigate the Biden administration’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
In late October, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee raised concerns about the Biden administration’s being uncooperative with an official known as the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. Congress created the post, as well as the office of the same name.
Comer and Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., ranking member of the committee’s subcommittee on national security, wrote to Special Inspector General John Sopko to inquire about his access.
“On two separate occasions, you have informed the committee that the Biden administration is obstructing your work by failing to produce required information. This is unacceptable,” says the letter to Sopko, who was appointed in 2012 by President Barack Obama.
“Therefore, we request a briefing on your continuing oversight efforts and any obstacles put in place by the Biden administration. Historically, [the] State [Department] and USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development] have honored SIGAR’s mission,” the letter continues, referring to Sopko’s office. It adds:
But since the Biden administration’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal—which is in desperate need of oversight—State and USAID have denied travel, delayed, obstructed, and even questioned SIGAR’s jurisdictional authority. The Biden administration’s obstruction directly violates the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 and the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, which both require agencies to provide inspectors general [with] information or assistance.
The chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan left 13 American servicemembers dead and left behind at least $7 billion worth of U.S. military equipment for the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group that regained control of Afghanistan.
House Republicans included addressing the “catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal” in their “Commitment to America” plan.
6. IRS Management
Grassley led a letter from Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee requesting that the Government Accountability Office investigate financial management at the Internal Revenue Service after Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act bestowed $80 billion on the tax collection agency.
“If the near-$80 billion is spent out evenly over time, for FY 2023 the IRS will be receiving a supersized 57% boost relative to FY 2022,” the committee senators wrote. “Such an outsized boost to agency funding, derived from legislation developed and passed in partisan fashion, in our view represents a high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and improper politicized utilization of taxpayer resources.”
The Republican senators seek information on what high-risk IRS issues identified previously by the Government Accountability Office remain outstanding, and what “significant deficiencies in internal controls” continue after IRS financial statements for fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2020. They also ask for details of “unresolved information system security control deficiencies” identified in the GAO audit.
7. Possible Impeachments
Some House Republicans have called for the impeachment of Biden. That seems far-fetched now, especially since McCarthy, the likely incoming speaker of the House, hadn’t shown any interest while he was House minority leader.
As speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., repeatedly pushed away calls for impeaching then-President Donald Trump from multiple members of the Democratic caucus. But after gaining a House majority in 2019, Pelosi gave into pressure from the more adamant lawmakers in her caucus.
In the House minority, Republicans have introduced 14 impeachment resolutions against either Biden or his Cabinet officials.
If an impeachment happens, some observers say, it’s more likely to happen with Cabinet members—chiefly Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas or Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that Mayorkas is going to be impeached by the House next year. Now, whether he’d be removed by the Senate, because it’s the same process as any other impeachment, that’s unclear,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Signal earlier this year.
“He took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the laws of the United States, and that ain’t what he’s doing,” Krikorian said of Mayorkas, who Biden appointed. He added:
There’s all kinds of hotheads among Republicans who will say, ‘Well, we got to impeach Biden’ and all this. Impeachment is a political process. It’d be a political error, I think, to go after Biden and even impeach him. Then Kamala Harris is president? I mean, that’s even worse.
But Mayorkas is an appropriate target for impeachment because even though the administration has a policy and he’s following it, it’s precisely because the president is so weak and unable to exercise authority—and there are differing currents of opinion in the administration. Mayorkas could be a lot tougher than he is. He could be actually following the law in a way that he’s not doing.
8. Investigating a Politicized Justice Department
After the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Aug. 8, McCarthy issued a warning to Garland, Biden’s attorney general.
“When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned,” the House Republican leader said. “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
After revelations that the Justice Department was targeting parents for objecting to local school board policies, some Republican lawmakers said Garland should be forced out.
“We have problems at the border, we have problems with drug cartels, we have problems with human traffickers,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told The Daily Signal last year.
“And Merrick Garland wants the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s offices to focus on parents that go to a school board meeting to ask questions about mandates on their children, curriculums affecting their children, and the safety of their children during the academic day,” Blackburn said. “I think that Merrick Garland should be removed from his position.”
Blackburn said Garland should resign, Biden should fire him, or the House should impeach him and the Senate convict and remove him.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which has been updated to include the latest House numbers for each party and Democrats’ apparent victory in the Senate.
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