House Republicans are committed to ugly sham investigations, but Democrats can counter

House Republicans are committed to ugly sham investigations, but Democrats can counter

Republicans plan to use their control of the House to launch a series of “investigations” with the sole intent of derailing the Biden administration. It’s going to be an ugly distraction from real issues that elevates the worst of the Republican Party. But while Democrats cannot stop that from happening, they don’t have to give up on real investigations of things that matter—because they are expected to have Senate committee majorities.

With a 50-50 Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats have had the ability to pass things through the full Senate (at least things that can’t be filibustered). But committees have been equally split, so Senate Democrats have not had subpoena power. Now, as long as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sticks to her plan to caucus with Democrats, they will have committee majorities and subpoena power. The question is how they’ll use it, and they’re not really saying.

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The House Ways & Means Committee got six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns too late to do much with them, but Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden could get the tax returns—after all, the court battle is over. But Wyden is being noncommittal about his plans.

“All the options are on the table,” Wyden told Politico. “But as my wife always says, ‘you know there’s some history here.’ I wrote the first Trump-related tax bill.” Wyden also pointed to an inquiry into Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family business, and he has been looking into how pharmaceutical companies are complying with tax laws.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, incoming chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is likely to conduct aggressive investigations into an array of industries—“We’re talking about incredible greed in the pharmaceutical industry, very high prices. We’re paying the highest prices in the world for healthcare, we’re talking about union busting. … I think those are issues the American people want us to look at”—but he says talk of subpoenas is “premature.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, is another Democrat who is no wimp, but, asked by Politico about new investigative priorities, he responded, “Nothing jumps to mind, but perhaps.”

Maybe they’re just playing it cool until after Sinema’s vote for Democratic leadership and committee majorities is locked in. Maybe they’re trying not to look too eager, so that it’s harder to both-sides the legitimacy and partisan motivations of Republican investigations in the House and Democratic ones in the Senate. (As if the media will hesitate to both-sides things, however unfairly.) Maybe they’re thinking about how to frame their investigations to help with the difficult 2024 Senate map—though, frankly, Brown leading investigations into Wall Street seems like a winner there.

Nothing Democrats can do—no matter how substantive and focused on issues of importance to the United States and its people—will get the headlines of one ugly Republican sham investigation after another. But there’s no good reason not to do the work.

Jenifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win is our guest on this week’s Daily Kos’ The Brief. When we spoke with Jenifer back in April, she was right about Democratic messaging—and had the data to prove it. More election data has been rolling in from the midterms, and Jenifer is back to talk about what worked and what needs to change in order for the Democratic Party to keep winning.

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