The House voted Tuesday to establish the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which will have wide-ranging powers to investigate alleged civil liberties violations of government agencies.
The subcommittee was created on a party-line vote, 221–211. All Democrats voted against it.
The subcommittee, a product of the negotiations between Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the Republicans who held out for days on voting to elect him as speaker, is modeled after the famous 1975 Church Committee chaired by former Sen. Frank Church.
It will seat 13 members, including five members chosen by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
The subcommittee’s purpose is broad and its authority is far-reaching. It is expected to probe numerous government entities, including the Justice Department, FBI, and intelligence communities, as well as private companies like Twitter, and will have access to classified documents typically only accessible to the House Intel Committee. The subcommittee is also expected to seek access to information related to the Biden administration’s ongoing criminal investigations, though some pushback from the administration is anticipated.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is expected to chair the subcommittee, which will be housed within the Judiciary Committee, of which Jordan is also chairman.
Jordan has long conveyed plans to investigate the Biden administration’s Justice Department and FBI through numerous letters regarding FBI whistleblower complaints and a 1,000–page roadmap laying out alleged misdeeds of the bureau. Some of these plans could now be executed through the subcommittee.
In a floor speech Tuesday on the initiative, Jordan cited the whistleblower allegation that the FBI was taking counterterrorism measures to investigate parents it deemed a threat at school board meetings, revelations from the recently released “Twitter files,” the FBI’s enforcement decisions regarding the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance (FACE) Act, and other issues.
“I had actually hoped we could get bipartisan agreement on protecting the First Amendment,” Jordan said. “Your right to practice your faith, your right to assemble, right to petition the government, freedom of press, freedom of speech, every single one’s been attacked in the last two years.”
The subcommittee is still in its earliest phase as McCarthy must appoint members. Some names have been floated to join the committee, such as Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), who had been one of the conservative House Freedom Caucus members pushing for the committee ahead of switching his vote in favor of electing McCarthy as speaker.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) is another possible member, and Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) says he will serve as ranking member on the subcommittee, the Washington Post reported.
Other outspoken proponents of the subcommittee include House Intel Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), another key player in last week’s speaker negotiations.
Turner said Tuesday as a preview of the subcommittee’s work, “Sadly, we already have very troubling evidence to begin our investigation to ensure that our intelligence community and law enforcement agencies are not violating Americans’ constitutional rights.”
Turner cited the Twitter files as a “small portion” of “gravely concerning” information that would be relevant to the subcommittee’s future activity.
Democrats wholly oppose the subcommittee, but, as indicated by Nadler’s intended membership, they still plan to participate on it.
The subcommittee “appears designed to launch a dangerous and unprecedented attack on our law enforcement agencies,” Nadler said Tuesday.
He, like other Democrats, said they fear the subcommittee will be used to “protect Donald Trump,” who was the target of an FBI raid last year that Republicans now say was a display of a “two-tier justice system.”
The raid came in response to an investigation into improperly stored classified documents from Trump’s presidency, and now, in an ironic turn of events, Biden is under investigation for allegedly also storing classified documents improperly from when he was vice president, as first reported by CBS.