House Judiciary Republicans Undaunted by White House Rebuff on Oversight Requests

Mark Tapscott
By Mark Tapscott
December 30, 2022Politics
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House Judiciary Committee Republicans aren’t backing off their plans for a massive oversight effort focused on President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s financial dealings, politicalization of the Department of Justice, and multiple other issues.

“The White House’s petty letter won’t slow anything down when it comes to us conducting legitimate, constitutional oversight,” a Judiciary spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

The spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, was referring to two letters from White House Special Counsel Richard Sauber to incoming Judiciary panel chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). Comer and Jordan officially assume the chairmanships on Jan. 3, when the 118th Congress convenes for the first time.

In his letters, Sauber told Comer and Jordan that they will have to resubmit after Jan. 3 their multiple requests in recent weeks to the White House and other executive branch departments and agencies for documents potentially related to upcoming oversight.

Comer and Jordan were the ranking Republicans on the two committees at the time of those requests. The White House leaked the Sauber letters to Politico, which published them at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday. A Jordan spokesman said the Ohio Republican was not asked for comment by Politico until after the story had been published.

“Congress has not delegated such authority to individual members of Congress who are not committee chairmen, and the House has not done so under its current Rules,”  Sauber wrote.

He is one of a growing staff of attorneys, researchers and strategists brought in by the Biden White House in anticipation of aggressive House Republican oversight initiatives in 2023. Prior to joining the White House, Sauber was appointed by Biden as General Counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“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. We expect the new Congress will undertake its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith,” Sauber continued.

The Biden White House decision to challenge Comer and Jordan before they assume their chairmanships is drawing praise from a veteran Democratic legislative strategist who nevertheless expressed surprise at the aggressiveness of the move.

“This was a smart and well-played move by the White House that, quite frankly, took me by surprise,” Jim Manley told The Epoch Times. Manley is the former Communications Director for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He was also a senior aide to former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

“There is very little legitimate in what House Republicans are prepared to do and it looks like the White House understands that and is prepared to deal with them accordingly. And after all, House Republicans don’t exactly have the high ground here,” Manley said.

Republicans said they expected such resistance from the Biden White House, but they questioned the prudence of the Sauber letters.

Mike Howell, a veteran of congressional oversight on both the Senate and House sides, as well as a former oversight counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, told The Epoch Times he was not surprised by the White House response to Comer and Jordan.
“The Biden White House will be the most obstructive towards oversight in American history. That is a promise. This response is not a surprise but instead the first shot in a pattern of non-compliance,” Howell said.
Howell’s strongest criticism, however, was for Senate Republicans who supported passage of the $1.8 trillion Omnibus spending bill just before Christmas.
“Surely the White House is also feeling empowered by the 18 Senate Republicans, led by Sens. McConnell and Cotton, who funded the [Biden] administration’s disastrous policies well into next year and took away their House colleagues’ leverage to tie oversight demands to specific funding. Incoming-Chairmen Jordan and Comer should direct their anger at those 18 Senators instead of the White House who we know won’t play ball,” Howell said.
Howell is now Director of the Oversight Project at the conservative Heritage Foundation non-profit think tank, which is making aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), USASpending.gov and other digital transparency tools in assessing Biden administration programs and performance.
Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow in the Meese Center for Judicial Studies at Heritage and a former member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), told The Epoch Times he’s surprised that Biden, who served in the Senate from 1973 until 2009, would allow such a combative response to two powerful incoming House committee chairmen.
“Comer and Jordan obviously will not become the chairs of the Oversight and Judiciary Committees until the new Congress is sworn in. But it is foolish for the White House to damage relations with them by declining to cooperate with them now, given how much power and authority they will have in those positions,” von Spakovsky said. “Another sign of just how lacking in basic diplomatic skills White House staff are. You would think a president who served so long in Congress would understand that such a disdainful attitude that sours relations with members of Congress just hurts him in the long run.”
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