Biden administration and House GOP get started early on oversight fight

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Rep. Jim Jordan, U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, speaks at a campaign rally in Youngstown, Ohio., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar) Tom E. Puskar/AP

Biden administration and House GOP get started early on oversight fight

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The 118th Congress doesn’t begin until next week, but the sniping between the Biden administration and House Republicans vowing to investigate it has already begun.

Early Thursday morning, the White House sent letters to two incoming committee chairmen saying they’d have to restart their oversight requests after the congressional session begins next Tuesday.

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“Congress has not delegated [oversight] authority to individual members of Congress who are not committee chairmen, and the House has not done so under its current Rules,” wrote White House oversight lawyer Richard Sauber, according to Politico.

The move incensed the chairs-to-be, Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will take over the oversight and judiciary committees, respectively, and have sent a slew of records requests over the last several weeks.

Both men vowed to resubmit their requests quickly.

“President Biden promised to have the most transparent administration in history but at every turn the Biden White House seeks to obstruct congressional oversight and hide information from Americans,” Comer tweeted. He made an appearance on Fox News on Thursday night to further his case.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is likely to become House speaker, weighed in as well, writing, “In 5 days, a new Republican majority will have the authority and obligation to get answers for the American people.”

The Biden team claims it is following in the footsteps of the Trump administration, which made similar moves against a new Democratic House majority in 2018. Democrats derided that move at the time yet are mostly silent now, while Jordan is in the position of leading investigations after pushing back against a subpoena request from the Jan. 6 committee.

Sauber’s letter did promise the Biden administration would comply with requests once Congress is back in session.

“Should the Committee issue similar or other requests in the 118th Congress, we will review and respond to them in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches,” Sauber wrote. “We expect the new Congress will undertake its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith.”

The move may be part of a wider effort President Joe Biden is leading to frustrate and divide Republicans as they take over the House. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has decried the intense focus on investigations as a distraction from the GOP’s promises to govern.

“Congressional Republicans ran saying that they were going to fight inflation. They said that they were going to make that a priority — they were very clear about that these past several months,” she told reporters recently. “Instead, what they are doing is they’re focusing … they’re making their top priority, they get the majority, and their top priority is actually not focusing on the American families but focusing on the president’s family.”

As the White House gets ready to push back against Republican oversight on a variety of fronts, this line of argument on Hunter Biden and other investigation topics could become a more prominent part of its messaging.

Reactions to the doings of either side often depend on party perspective.

Republican strategist John Feehery says Biden’s move shows a lack of respect for the constitutionally mandated oversight responsibility of Congress.

“It shows that the president and his people have little respect for the new congressional majority and reveals that their strategy will be to obstruct and delay any legitimate congressional inquiries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategist Tom Cochran likened the letters to a shrewd move in the political game.

“I don’t see this as bad faith,” said Cochran, a partner at 720 Strategies. “If the incoming GOP leadership is looking to demonstrate authoritative oversight, the White House isn’t going to facilitate it by starting before they actually take control. This is a procedural technicality and a game of political chess.”

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House Republicans have promised for months to investigate Biden for a host of issues, including the porous southern border, his energy moves, the Afghanistan withdrawal, the origins of COVID-19, and alleged influence peddling by his family members. Beginning next week, they’ll get their chance in earnest.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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