Speaker Kevin McCarthy put a mix of conservative hardliners, leadership allies, and Rep. Jim Jordan, who is part of both groups, in charge of the large Republican investigative panel.
On Tuesday night, the California Republican put Jordan and 11 other GOP lawmakers on a special subcommittee to study how the federal government is being “weaponized.” Republicans are likely to use it to look into the FBI, the Justice Department, and the intelligence community, all of which have been at the center of some of their biggest complaints in recent years.
McCarthy and his right flank worked for weeks to get the votes he needed to win a historic 15-vote battle for the speaker’s gavel. This led to the creation of the panel. At first, conservatives wanted a select committee, but the GOP leadership offered a subcommittee under the House Judiciary Committee, which Jordan also leads.4
As part of the negotiations within the conference, conference heads added language that gives the panel the power to get access to information shared with the Intelligence Committee and review “ongoing criminal investigations.” The Justice Department is likely to object to this idea.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), one of the new members of the panel, told POLITICO on Tuesday, “As long as we keep it tight and know what we’re doing before we go in, which is where Jim Jordan comes in — no one is better at this than him — we’ll be fine.”
McCarthy has to find a balance between different groups at his conference, and the new members of the panel represent those groups. McCarthy could try to keep it in check by putting Jordan in charge and adding other allies to the panel. However, he also needs to keep Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Dan Bishop (R-North Carolina) happy to stop any rebellion before it starts. The wide range of members also shows that the House GOP is not on the edge when it comes to suspecting the Justice Department and the FBI of having political goals.
It’s likely to be at the center of fights with the Biden administration, especially the Justice Department, because Republicans on the panel will be able to look into everything from investigations related to Jan. 6 to the search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home last year. Republicans have hinted that they could look into more things, like the Department of Education and big tech companies.
Some of McCarthy’s closest friends were given places on the panel. Jordan was expected to lead the group for a long time. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mike Johnson (R-LA), two members of the GOP leadership team, are also getting seats on the subcommittee, as is Armstrong, a McCarthy supporter who helped nominate him for speaker during a closed-door meeting last year. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-New York) are both on the Intelligence Committee.
Only Roy and Bishop, who used to be against McCarthy but now support him, will get a seat. Bishop was an early supporter of a select committee in the conference, and Roy helped negotiate the deal that helped McCarthy get the speaker’s gavel.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), and Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Fla.) will also be on the committee (R-Wyo.). Hageman beat former Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming who was on the Jan. 6 committee led by Democrats. The Democrats still need to put forward their own panel members. As part of the resolution that gave it the go-ahead, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, gets a seat.
In addition to Jordan and Nadler, the resolution said that McCarthy would choose 13 other people, with no more than five of them chosen after consulting with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. McCarthy’s list on Tuesday night included 11 GOP members in addition to Jordan. This filled most of the 13 spots on the panel, which was very popular within McCarthy’s conference.
But two of McCarthy’s staff members who know about the plan said he plans to pass a second resolution to make the panel bigger to account for the larger number of Republicans who will be on it. The aides, who asked not to be named, said that Democrats would also get a proportional increase.
The House approved the panel earlier this month on a party-line vote. It is already a target of criticism from Democrats, the Biden administration, and their allies, who see it as a way for Republicans to use their new majority to get political payback.
“Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy say they are looking into how the government is being used to make weapons, but this new select subcommittee is the weapon. In a recent statement about the panel, Nadler said that it is meant to bring extremist politics into our justice system and protect the MAGA movement from the legal consequences of their actions.
But Republicans have said that the panel was needed to keep an eye on the FBI and the Justice Department, which have been two of the party’s biggest targets in recent years. They have also pointed to a report from the inspector general that says the FBI abused its surveillance powers to spy on a former adviser to Trump’s campaign.
McCarthy said that the Democrats had “targeted political opponents” during the last two years when they had full control of Washington. “The government should work for the American people, not against them,” he said.
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