Wednesday, November 07, 2018

With Dems Taking House, GOP Will Regret Rules Change

It wasn't the huge blue wave I was hoping for, but Democrats have gained control of the House of Representatives. As I write this post, MSNBC has projected Democrats to win about 230 House seats to 205 seats for the Republicans. That will be enough to make sure that the Trump administration is actually investigated for its wrongdoing (instead of the whitewash Republicans have given them for the last couple of years.

Helping in these investigations is a rule instigated by Republicans which gives committee chairs subpoena power without consulting the minority party. That means the new Democratic chairs will have this power now, and there's nothing Republicans can do to prevent it.

Here's how Anthony Adragna describes it at

Democrats eager to investigate the Trump administration if they seize the House would have the GOP to thank for one of their most potent tools — a sweeping subpoena authority that Democratic lawmakers denounced as an abusive power grab three years ago.

House Republicans changed the rules in 2015 to allow many of their committee chairmen to issue subpoenas without consulting the minority party, overriding Democrats objections that likened the tactic to something out of the McCarthy era.

Now the weapon that the GOP wielded dozens of times against President Barack Obama’s agencies could allow Democrats to bombard President Donald Trump’s most controversial appointees with demands for information. And many Democrats are itching to use it. . . .

Oversight would be one of the few concrete goals that Democrats could accomplish with control of only one chamber of Congress and Trump still in the White House. They have a long list of potential targets, including likely demands for Trump’s tax returns and probes into Cabinet members such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Before the 2015 rule change, most House subpoenas needed at least some bipartisan cover, requiring a majority vote of committee members and consultation with a panel’s ranking member. The change erased those requirements and allowed the chairmen to proceed unilaterally, although the exact rules vary by committee.

Of the 21 standing committees in the House, 14 allow their chairmen to issue subpoenas on their own initiative, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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