Washington Hours after House Republicans approved a new elected subcommittee promising an unprecedented review of misconduct or abuse by the federal government, many veteran House Democrats told CBS News they would attend the panel.
They said the party would not boycott or step down from the subcommittee, unlike most House Republicans refusing to take their assigned seats on the landmark House Select Committee on January 6.
As one of the first orders as the majority party in the House of Representatives, Republicanselected subcommittee “on arming the federal government” in a party vote on Tuesday. The panel will have unique, extensive powers, including the ability to issue subpoenas to broad swaths of federal agencies. House Republican Party leaders said the panel would “examine how the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and other executive branch agencies operate.”
The new panel has been likened to the January 6 select committee that conducted an extensive 18-month investigation into the attack on the United States Capitol that began in 2021. The January 6 committee held hearings that attracted tens of millions of viewers and was able to synchronize and standardized its message and presentations, in part due to a boycott by nearly all House Republicans.
Democrats, some of whom referred to the new “Federal Government Arms” subcommittee as a “tin-foil committee,” denounced the panel as a zealous group that would pursue conspiracy theories and unverified accusations of misconduct.
Nevertheless, many Democrats told CBS News that they expected their party to attend the committee hearings to prevent Republicans from having unlimited opportunity to choreograph hearings and messaging.
Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a Pennsylvania Democrat, told CBS News, “We’ve seen how effective it can be when one party is in control,” referring to the January 6 panel. “It’s a tension we’re dealing with all the time. You don’t want to reinforce conspiracy theories by repeating them. But on the other hand, you don’t want people to think that you agree with the really crazy things that are being said.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat and member of the House Oversight Committee, told CBS News that the elected subcommittee “will only prove the hypocrisy of the Republican Party. Democrats will not back down from defending our noble government officials.”
Democratic Caucus Chairman MP Pete Aguilar said, “It’s in our best interest to make sure we represent the will of the caucus and the American public, and Republicans have no way of shaping and adding to themselves behind closed doors these conspiracy theories.”
The Republicans drafted some of the new subcommittee’s rules and guidelines, using language that matches the January 6 committee’s rules and deadlines, including providing subpoena powers. The Federal Government’s Ordnance Panel also requires that “an elected subcommittee cease to exist 30 days after the final report is submitted.”
Republicans favored the subcommittee as a mechanism to control or prevent abuses by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Supporters of the panel echoed criticism from former President Donald Trump and top Republican leaders that federal agencies and “deep state” entities in the federal civil service targeted Republicans or people who protested abortion rights or certain school board policies.
The subcommittee was negotiated during the recent standoff between Republicans over the election of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, one of the House Republican members who initially voted against McCarthy in the first few rounds of speaker’s ballots, spoke in favor of approving the new subcommittee yesterday.
“We give our Department of Justice, the FBI and the intelligence community great power to keep us safe, and yet for as long as these agencies have existed, they have been violating the civil rights of Americans – ordinary Americans,” Bishop told The Floor this week. “The security state considers itself above the constitution and laws enacted by Congress.”
The subcommittee will report to the House Judiciary Committee in the 118th Congress. The Judicial Committee has not yet fully organized or announced its full membership.
Under the newly passed law, the federal government’s subcommittee on armaments is to be composed of eight Republicans and five Democrats.