Win McNamee/Getty Images
- The House GOP voted to create a new subcommittee that they say is modeled after the Church Committee.
- They hope to investigate alleged abuses of power and anti-conservative bias by intelligence agencies.
- Democrats will be able to appoint 5 members to the new 13-member subcommittee.
The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to establish a new committee targeting the alleged “weaponization” of the federal government in one of the first major votes since Republicans assumed a majority in the chamber.
The vote was 221-211, with all Republicans voting for a resolution to create the panel and all Democrats voting against it.
The new subcommittee is officially known as the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” and will be housed under the House Judiciary Committee. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who’s expected to serve as the chair of the Judiciary committee, may also serve as the subcommittee chair, a source with knowledge of the situation told Insider. The panel will be authorized to investigate executive branch agencies, particularly intelligence agencies, that gather information on American citizens.
A blueprint of the idea was first put forward by the Center for Renewing America, a right-wing nonprofit group run by several staffers for former President Donald Trump.
It was then championed by a cohort of hardline conservatives including Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Dan Bishop of North Carolina, and the committee came about as part of a series of deals that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made with in exchange for their votes for his speakership.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar had previously publicly expressed some interest in the committee, but ultimately voted against its creation on Tuesday.
“I had high hopes,” she said. “It looks like it’s going to be about grievances. It looks like it’s going to be about folks who are already under investigation trying to protect themselves.”
Conservatives have alleged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation harbors a political bias against conservatives, pointing to aspects of Trump’s infamously poor relationship with the so-called “deep state” and claims that parents have been targeted by the Department of Justice for protesting “Critical Race Theory” at local school boards.
They also liken the committee to the so-called “Church Committee” — officially known as the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities — that was chaired by then-Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho and uncovered a range of abuses by intelligence agencies.
Those abuses included the unlawful surveillance of civil rights activists under COINTELPRO, covert assassination plots against foreign leaders, and the infamous “MKUltra” human experimentation program.
“As part of our agreement, we got what we call a ‘Church-style’ committee,” Roy told Fox News last week. He added that the committee would have “at least as much as the January 6 committee” in terms of its budget and staffing.
Loch Johnson, a political science professor and the top aide to Sen. Church as he chaired the committee, has argued that the GOP effort is about trying to “obtain impunity for themselves and punish their enemies.”
The new subcommittee has been authorized by Congress to look into ongoing criminal investigations, which is likely to be met with resistance from the DOJ. Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, whose cellphone was seized by the FBI in connection to the DOJ’s investigation into January 6, would not rule out serving on the panel.
Under the language of the resolution establishing the committee, the 13-member panel will be composed of eight Republicans and five Democrats.
Democrats have trashed the idea and urged their members to vote against it, but signaled that they would still seek to appoint members to the panel.
“We call that the tin foil hat committee,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Pete Aguilar at a press conference on Tuesday, while adding that they will seek to join every official committee and subcommittee possible in the 118th Congress.
McCarthy’s decision to pull all of his appointees to the January 6 committee has come to be seen as a strategic blunder, allowing the unified, 9-member committee to construct an unchallenged narrative of the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol.
Aguilar said that it’s in Democrats best interest to ensure that Republicans “don’t have an opportunity, behind closed doors, to shape and to add to these conspiracy theories.”