Congressional Democrats believe that a concerted offensive will be their best defence against the impending Republican investigation.
Democrats on Capitol Hill, in the White House, in agencies, and in outside political groups are bracing for fight with Republican committee chairs investigating the Biden administration and the Biden family’s financial activities.
The major effort at the outset demonstrates the danger that the GOP investigations and subpoena power pose to Biden’s political prospects as he seeks reelection. The stakes of bringing down the GOP investigations have only risen in the last month, with Biden now dealing with a special counsel examining his handling of confidential papers discovered at his private residence and office.
Democrats have engaged polling firms and focus groups even before the first subpoena or hearing to try to undermine the upcoming investigations and protect Biden as the 2024 campaign approaches.
They intend to launch sustained attacks on the two Republicans expected to lead the most aggressive investigations: Oversight Chairman James Comer of Kentucky and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is also the chairman of the new so-called weaponization of government subcommittee with a broad investigative mandate. Meanwhile, outside groups intend to bring the fight closer to home by visiting more than a dozen Biden-leaning congressional districts to target vulnerable Republicans engaged in the investigations.
The strategy will be led by Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, whose office has already revived a standing investigations meeting conducted by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while Democrats were in charge. The gathering is intended to help workers from several committees align their messaging and counter-strategy. Committee staffers have also been in constant contact with administration officials who are anticipated to be the targets of GOP subpoenas, meeting on a daily basis to discuss strategies for dealing with Republican requests for information and assaults on agencies.
“Obviously, when Republicans go off on nonsense, we’re going to push back,” said New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
It’s an approach that resembles how congressional Republicans worked as attack dogs for then-President Donald Trump when Democrats gained control of the House in 2019. Republicans vilified California House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who spearheaded the House’s first impeachment of Trump, and Trump maintained frequent contact with his GOP House friends during the ensuing impeachment trial.
Republicans have disregarded Democrats’ efforts to stymie their investigations.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Comer said of the Democratic efforts. “I have never seen an administration collaborate with outside groups so closely to attack the investigators.”
Democrats will have their first public chance to put their plan to the test on Wednesday, when the House Judiciary and Oversight committees hold their first public hearings, one on “the Biden Border crisis” and the other on pandemic spending abuses. According to aides, Democratic staff and lawmakers worked all weekend to prepare for the hearings. While the hearings themselves may be a footnote in the lengthy tale of Democrats’ efforts to protect Biden, they will be a critical opportunity for the party to establish itself as effective at fighting GOP propaganda.
“This is a test run,” one Democratic aide said of the hearing’s significance.
According to more than a dozen Democratic members and staffers interviewed, one of the most difficult challenges going forward will be striking the right balance between sharing concerns about objectively complicated topics like border dysfunction and classified document mishandling with their desire to play messaging defence for the President and his administration and a belief that Republicans are unfairly focusing on Biden on issues that were problems in the past.
“We definitely believe there’s a very large role for oversight and making sure that government laws and programmes translate for the people,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. “However, I’m worried that Republicans have come to believe that the goal of oversight is just to annoy the other side and participate in partisan wild goose chases. So we’ll be there to function as a truth squad, challenging and exposing the conspiracy theories and scandals of the day.”
Raskin, a member of the House committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, said he and other high-ranking Democrats are viewing their work through the lens of the present political landscape, which is still severely divided two years after the attack.
“We’re emerging from a harrowing period of societal and political warfare as a result of a violent insurgency launched against Congress and the vice president,” Raskin stated. “From my perspective, Kevin McCarthy has virtually swallowed MAGA and the insurgency, and they are now driving the vehicle over there. And our responsibility on Oversight is to continue defending basic Democratic institutions and the legislative process against a MAGA agenda as best we can.”