McCarthy turns House Oversight into a Tucker panel
Also: The race to replace Feinstein, explained.
By Aaron Rupar
There’s been lots of speculation about what concessions Kevin McCarthy made to far-right holdouts during the protracted voting that culminated in an opaque deal allowing him to become speaker of the House. It appears one of them was turning the House Oversight Committee into a glorified Fox News segment.
We’ve known for some time that the committee is going to be chaired by James Comer, the Fox favorite who wants to talk about nothing but Hunter Biden and was called out for hypocrisy during a rare CNN appearance last weekend. This week we learned that he’ll get help digging up dirt on the Bidens from extremists like Paul Gosar, Scott Perry, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene — all but the last of whom caused problems for McCarthy during the speaker voting.
News that House Oversight is now controlled by a basket of deplorables is the latest indication that McCarthy sold the farm to become House speaker. Greene, you might recall, was stripped of her committee assignments in early 2021 because of her background of endorsing political violence, embracing conspiracy theories like QAnon, and harassing school shooting survivors. Gosar, who barely tries to hide his white nationalism, lost his committee seats months later after he posted a bizarre animation on social media depicting him killing AOC. Boebert has a history of Islamophobia, and Perry was so involved in the January 6 coup plotting that his phone was seized by the feds. It’s all indefensible, but these are the characters McCarthy and House Republican leadership put in charge of high-profile investigations sure to receive heavy coverage, not only on Fox News but on more mainstream networks, too.
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In addition to her seat on oversight, Greene, who not so long ago was a proponent of a conspiracy theory about the world being run by a secret cabal of Democratic pedophiles, also got a spot on the Homeland Security Committee, which is poised to start with impeachment hearings for HHS Secretary Alejando Majorkas.
“Joe Biden, be prepared,” she said in a statement. “We are going to uncover every corrupt business dealing, every foreign entanglement, every abuse of power.”
MAGA may seem like a fading force electorally, but key committees are stocked with Republicans who supported Trump’s coup attempt. As Kyle Cheney of Politico details, huge majorities of the Republican members on Oversight and Judiciary voted to reject the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021, in the hours after the Capitol was attacked by Trump supporters.
While McCarthy and House Republican leadership elevates the worst of the worst, they’re reportedly poised to block Democrats Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ilhan Omar from sitting on certain committees for reasons that basically boil down to political retaliation. Any allegation that those three have done things comparable to endorsing violence against their colleagues is absurd, but preventing them from being on committees is a way for House Republicans to normalize the conduct of Greene and Gosar. Along the same lines, Greene, who describes herself as “the leading MAGA voice in Congress,” is already talking incessantly about hitting back for Trump’s impeachments by impeaching Biden.
McCarthy has had a hard time defending the committee assignments choices. He was visibly uncomfortable when asked Tuesday about the decision to seat serial fabricator and alleged fraudster George Santos on two committees, including small business.
And when McCarthy was challenged last week to explain his rationale for blocking Democrats from certain committee, he responded by making a show of getting mad at the reporter who asked him about it.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, meanwhile, pointed out the obvious during Wednesday’s briefing, saying “it appears that House Republicans have handed over the keys to the most extreme members of the Republican caucus ... these are members who have promoted violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories."
Jean-Pierre’s assessment is objectively correct. McCarthy has put the inmates in charge of the asylum. This means we’re in for two years of sideshow-like House hearings, but worse might be in store too. On the policy front, another key concession McCarthy made to the lunatic fringe is to push for unpopular and harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for allowing the federal government to pay its bills. That showdown is now looming, as the federal government this week hit the debt limit and is already taking extraordinary measures to avoid defaulting.
Pulling out all the stops to carve up the safety net is a far cry from tackling inflation or crime or other issues that Republicans spent a lot of time talking about on the campaign trail last year. But one perverse outcome of the red wave that wasn’t is that by leaving the GOP with such a thin House majority, ostracizing the Boeberts and Santoses of his caucus is a luxury the power-hungry McCarthy doesn’t have (unless he wants to work with Democrats).
While turning the Oversight Committee into a Tucker Carlson panel will obviously be catnip for Fox News, it might end up backfiring on the GOP. It’s likely to demonstrate the party learned very little from three straight underwhelming election cycles where voters rejected MAGA. It will make it easy for Dems to draw a contrast and portray themselves as the adults in the room heading into 2024.
But in the meantime, the House will be a circus, and to the extent the Republican majority actually tries to accomplish anything beyond creating 20-second Hannity clips, their efforts are likely to hurt people. Elect clowns, expect a circus.