Articles

House ‘Oversight’ Has Two Meanings

December 01, 2022
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One thing we know Americans will get from a Republican House is oversight—and lots of it. Committees will issue demands for documents and testimony and hold frequent hearings. Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will volley charges.

House GOP leaders have already promised investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, the failed response to the border crisis, politicization at the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Covid’s origin, and the Afghan fiasco.

Republicans see payback and partisan advantage in oversight, but Democrats see potential for GOP self-sabotage. They hope Republicans will overreach, as they did by pushing President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. While they’ll launch these inquiries quickly after the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, none will be quickly resolved. The Hunter Biden investigation may even be put on hold if he’s indicted, as it’ll have to wait until the trial concludes.

Republicans should remember there’s a risk investigations could swamp their legislative agenda. The goal of oversight must be above all to advocate for reforms that Americans will see as sensible and reasonable. Because the GOP holds only one chamber, House Republicans will play an oversize role in defining the party’s image until it nominates a presidential candidate in 2024.

It isn’t enough to blast Hunter Biden for trading on his father’s name and position. What ethics reforms would keep it from happening again? What policies will end the border crisis? What can be done to restore trust in the Justice Department and FBI? What will prevent America from abandoning allies and comrades-in-arms as it did in Kabul? These investigations can be an opportunity to prove to voters that Republicans can make Washington work again.

But the GOP can’t focus on oversight alone at the expense of legislating on the urgent issues that led 54.3 million Americans to vote Republican in midterm House races. Voters didn’t give the GOP its majority, thin as it is, merely to lob grenades at Democrats. They expect Republicans to work to reduce inflation, strengthen the military, put Washington’s fiscal house in order, restore prosperity, and get the country on the right course.

The GOP promised to focus on these issues when House Republicans released their Commitment to America policy plan in September. Its 18 elements were broken into four themes—a strong economy, a safe nation, a future of freedom, and a government accountable to the people.

Though that outline of policy suggestions was short on detail, it made clear that Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) is committed to addressing these topics and with bills written the right way—emerging from committees, not dictated by party leadership, as has been Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s practice. Remember how the House had to pass ObamaCare so we could find what’s in it?

The seven task forces Mr. McCarthy appointed to craft these priorities in June 2021 were each led by a serious member and included representatives from every committee involved in the topic. The Jobs and Economy Task Force was chaired by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.) with major players from the Ways and Means, Financial Services and Budget committees. The China Task Force was led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) with members from the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees.

One thing we know Americans will get from a Republican House is oversight—and lots of it. Committees will issue demands for documents and testimony and hold frequent hearings. Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will volley charges.

House GOP leaders have already promised investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, the failed response to the border crisis, politicization at the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Covid’s origin, and the Afghan fiasco.

Republicans see payback and partisan advantage in oversight, but Democrats see potential for GOP self-sabotage. They hope Republicans will overreach, as they did by pushing President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. While they’ll launch these inquiries quickly after the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, none will be quickly resolved. The Hunter Biden investigation may even be put on hold if he’s indicted, as it’ll have to wait until the trial concludes.

Republicans should remember there’s a risk investigations could swamp their legislative agenda. The goal of oversight must be above all to advocate for reforms that Americans will see as sensible and reasonable. Because the GOP holds only one chamber, House Republicans will play an oversize role in defining the party’s image until it nominates a presidential candidate in 2024.

Read More at the WSJ

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