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House Republicans ‘May Dig Their Own Grave’ With Fringe Political Investigations

The contrast between the two chambers may become quite pronounced during the 118th Congress.
December 7, 2022
House Republicans ‘May Dig Their Own Grave’ With Fringe Political Investigations
(The Bulwark / Midjourney)

The Republican majority in the House is planning to launch full-throated investigations into Hunter Biden and other political bugbears when the new Congress convenes in January, prompting Democrats on the other side of the Capitol to respond with the powers of their Senate majority.

Democrats who spoke with The Bulwark said House Republicans’ stated oversight priorities are nakedly political, but won’t help the GOP’s future electoral efforts. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are poised to take the baton on what they consider critical investigations, such as that of the House January 6th Committee.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine told The Bulwark Senate Democrats could pick up the slack where these investigations have fallen off in the House. Whether they will need to do so depends on which route Republicans take over the next two years—a serious one, or a frivolous detour.

“We may do some of our own work here to tell a more accurate story—that would depend on what the investigation is,” he said. “But if the House wants to go from a legislative body into a body that’s just trying to get headlines on weird investigations, they may feel like at the end of the day they can pat themselves on the back because they got on a cable news TV show. But I don’t think they’re going to be impressing their voters.”

Kaine added that the Democrats’ best course of action will be to ignore hyper-political investigations that come out of the House committees.

“I think if we do the work of a legislative body and produce some results, good confirmations, continue to produce bipartisan bills as we have, and the House is known for wacky investigations that aren’t really top of mind to anybody but an extreme view, that will show a real contrast between who the two parties are in ways that will not necessarily be harmful to us,” he said.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy echoed Kaine, telling The Bulwark spending too much legislative time on red meat for the party base will ultimately doom Republicans at the ballot box.

“I think if they spend the next year talking about Hunter Biden instead of health care, housing, and gun violence, we won’t have to do much,” Murphy said. “They may dig their own grave.”

“It’s a little hard in a 50-50 Senate” to increase the chamber’s oversight, Murphy said. “But we’ll do oversight when it’s policy related, but we’re not going to engage in witch hunts.”

However, Republicans appear to be all in on making the House agenda about Hunter Biden, examining whether arrested January 6th rioters have been treated unfairly by the Justice Department, and more.

“Protecting the president’s son who has committed crimes with Americans’ tax dollars is waste,” said the next House oversight committee chair, James Comer, in the Republicans’ first press conference after securing the House majority.

“Rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse will be the primary goal of a Republican House Oversight Committee,” Comer added. “As such, this investigation is a top priority.”

Even Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of just two Republicans in the House to survive his primary and win re-election after voting to impeach Donald Trump, told The Bulwark investigations into Hunter Biden are warranted in the new Congress.

“I think if the whole Biden family issue has some connection to the president, there may be a thread there that should be followed,” he said. “Some things I’ve heard and read appear that that may be the case. It makes sense I guess.”

Regarding the alleged Justice Department mistreatment of January 6th protesters, Newhouse added the issue should be examined for transparency’s sake but conceded he is unsure there is any “evidence of some wrongdoing.”

The lone break with Republicans came once again from Mitt Romney, who told The Bulwark those types of political investigations, particularly into Hunter Biden, are a poor use of Congress’s already-limited resources.

“I think it’s really hard to know what the politics of a course of action might be in this day and age, to know where our party stands, what our base wants, what independent voters want,” Romney said. “But I think you have to do what you think is right and I think the American people want us to tackle some of the big challenges we have—immigration, inflation, and so forth—and the other things that divert from those priorities I think are a waste of time.”

Joe Perticone

Joe Perticone is national political reporter at The Bulwark. Follow him on Twitter: @JoePerticone. He can be reached at: [email protected].