House GOP plans many investigations next year. Senate Democrats say they do too.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Join Washington Post Live at 9 a.m. Eastern for a conversation with special climate envoy John F. Kerry about the Biden administration’s climate policies at home and abroad. Then Leigh Ann will sit down with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) to discuss U.S. investments in clean energy innovation and the prospects for bipartisan cooperation in the next Congress. This event is part of a special new week-long series, “This is Climate.”
At 1:30 p.m. Eastern, Leigh Ann chats with actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Lauren Miller Rogen about federal policy for elder care on Washington Post Live’s “Across the Aisle” series. The couple’s personal experiences as caregivers have informed their advocacy and the prospects for bipartisan cooperation on the issue in the new Congress.
House GOP plans many investigations next year. Senate Democrats say they do too.
House Republicans have an aggressive investigative agenda for the next Congress. They’ve been talking about it for months, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) this week laid out their investigative priorities.
But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats are planning to use their 51-seat majority to launch investigations, too.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted Wednesday that Democratic-led committees will have greater subpoena power with a 51-seat majority next year than they do under the current 50-50 split, where Republicans have the ability to hinder subpoena requests. They don’t plan to investigate the Biden administration, he said (obviously!), but to “deal with corporate corruption and inequities and other problems around the country.”
He refused to detail specifics at this early stage. but one committee is moving quickly. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is focusing on several issues.
For instance, he is requesting information from pharmaceutical companies who have taken advantage of overseas tax havens on prescription drug sales.
In a “final” letter to Robert Bradway, the chief executive of Amgen, to be sent today, Wyden asked the company for a detailed breakdown of their revenue and tax payments both in the United States and overseas. Wyden charges that the company, which sells the arthritis drug Erbnel, has avoided billions in taxes through subsidiaries in Puerto Rico.
The company has until Dec. 21 to respond and a subpoena could be the next step.
Investigations already underway
Some committees are discussing internally whether they should take up investigations launched by House Democrats over the past two years that are likely to disappear under the new Republican House majority, including probes into former president Donald Trump’s administration and his businesses, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
- Our colleague Michael Kranish reports that Wyden and outgoing House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) “have launched an aggressive new effort to obtain information about whether Jared Kushner’s actions on U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf region as a senior White House adviser were influenced by the bailout of a property owned by his family business.”
Democrats and some Republicans are also demanding answers from the Pentagon following an investigation from our colleagues Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones “that revealed hundreds of retired U.S. military personnel have taken high-paying jobs as contractors and consultants for foreign governments, mostly in countries known for political repression.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) on Wednesday sent letters to five consulting firms, which were provided to The Early, asking for information about high-ranking retired military officials who have made hundreds of thousands of dollars consulting for foreign governments with human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The firms include the Cohen Group (run by former defense secretary William Cohen), Jones Group International (run by James L. Jones, a retired Marine Corps general who served as national security adviser in the Obama administration), IronNet (run by Keith L. Alexander, a retired Army general who once led the National Security Agency), Fairfax National Security Solutions (run by James Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration) and Booz Allen Hamilton.
Senate Democrats are still mulling what other areas they should target now that they have a 51-seat majority.
“We’ve got to sit down, we’ve got to talk to our members, we’ve got to figure out directions we want to go,” Schumer said. (One educated guess: Crypto impresario Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX fame should get ready to spend some time in Washington.)
‘A very difficult line to walk’
Many of McCarthy’s investigative priorities relate to Biden and his administration, including investigations of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, the Justice Department and the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter.
But McCarthy also pledged to investigate Twitter, Facebook and Google as well as the environmental, social and governance movement in corporate America, raising the possibility that some companies could find themselves dealing with investigations led by House Republicans and ones led by Senate Democrats at the same time.
“Now that Democrats have the power to issue Senate subpoenas, we’re going to see dueling House and Senate investigations, in which the two parties investigate some of the same issues from opposing perspectives,” Robert Kelner, a lawyer at Covington & Burling who advises companies on congressional investigations, wrote in an email to The Early. “Sometimes companies may find themselves caught in the crossfire.”
Kelner has already heard from companies concerned about the subpoena power Senate Democrats will wield with a 51st vote.
- “The Senate doesn’t issue nearly as many subpoenas as the House, but it’s the ability to issue the subpoena that creates the pressure on companies that are being investigated,” he said.
The prospect of House Republicans and Senate Democrats conducting overlapping investigations “has the potential to give clients whiplash,” said Raphael Prober, the co-head of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s congressional investigations practice. “They might be testifying on an issue on one side of the Capitol, and then the next day or even that same day have to testify on that exact same issue with a different vantage point on the other side of the Capitol. And that can be a very difficult line to walk.”
ICYMI: Thune on Trump in 2024: ‘I’m hoping to have other options’
Republican Whip Sen. John Thune (S.D.) has not been shy about criticizing Trump, but in a Wednesday interview with Leigh Ann on Washington Post Live, he didn’t hold back, saying he hopes to have “other options” in the 2024 presidential election.
“I think we will have options, and I hope to be able to, you know, support one of those options,” Thune added.
Thune said the former president’s focus on the 2020 election and the candidates who supported that message was why Republicans did poorly in Georgia and across the country in the midterm elections. He said re-litigating the 2020 election was a “non-starter with independent voters.”
“I think a lot of this was just people saying, ‘Enough of that already,’” Thune said.
Watch the entire interview here.
Tom Emmer is a powerful crypto advocate in a crypto-wary Congress
Emmer’s crypto ties: “At a moment when Washington is becoming keenly aware of the promise and peril of cryptocurrency, Tom Emmer, 61, is about to become one of its most prominent advocates in Congress,” our colleague Tony Romm writes . “In recent years, the Republican from Minnesota has increasingly promoted crypto interests — championing its companies, pushing industry-friendly proposals and chastising critics who in his view stand in the way of innovation.”
- “Along the way, Emmer has reaped big bucks from the industry and its top executives, including those from the since-collapsed company FTX. But his sharp deregulatory bent could carry greater significance next year, when Republicans are set to assume control of the House — just as some lawmakers say they hope to enact crypto regulations.”
- “Emmer’s fervent support — and his new, powerful perch as House majority whip — could make him a formidable foe of aggressive restrictions on what he has described as the future of finance.”
A narrow GOP majority is forcing moderates to find their voice
Treading water: “As House Republicans prepare for the majority once again, pragmatic and moderate members of the conference are banding together to prevent another ideological clash, led by a handful of staunchly conservative members who their pragmatic colleagues blamed for losing the majority in 2018,” our colleague Marianna Sotomayor reports. “They believe the party’s lackluster performance in this year’s midterm elections proves voters are rejecting the extremes in exchange for individuals who prioritize governing.”
- “The GOP’s razor-thin majority — which will stand at four or five seats once all races are called — has given the more moderate members of the conference a mandate to find a voice equally as powerful, if not more influential, than the most conservative allies of Trump in their ranks, who many consider grandstanders over legislators.”
- “I think we have to flex our muscles a little bit more and say we’re going to govern America,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a Republican in a swing district who won another term in November, told Marianna. “There’s a small number that want their way or the highway. Well, that’s how we fail. We can’t let 2 percent or 3 percent drive the whole Congress.”
The House will vote on the annual defense policy bill today, which was the subject of tense last minute negotiations. It will then head to the Senate.
The House will also vote on the same-sex marriage bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, which will then go to the president for his signature. We are watching if more than 47 Republicans, the number who backed it before the election, vote for it this time.
Meanwhile, the race to enact a new spending measure that would fund the government through Sept. 30, 2023, is on. Lawmakers have until Dec. 16 to come to a resolution, or the federal government will shut down. But that’s easier said than done. Lawmakers are now starting to believe that they need an additional week to clinch a deal, which could push the deadline back to Dec. 23, per Tony.
- Where things currently stand: “Democrats said they submitted their latest spending counter-offer to the GOP on Wednesday afternoon,” Tony writes. “But the two sides have remained at odds over familiar fault lines, with Republicans seeking more money for defense and less for other domestic programs than Democrats and the White House prefer.”
Finally, Rev. Robert L. Schenck, the whistleblower who told the New York Times last month that he received advanced notice of how the Supreme Court would rule in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a landmark religious freedom case concerning contraception, will appear before the House Judiciary Committee today.
- Schenck is expected to pull the curtain back on the covert campaign to influence the Supreme Court justices, known as Operation Higher Court. The hearing is part of the Democratic effort to erect binding ethics rules for the justices.
Dance like no one’s watching 🕺