President Joe Biden’s White House Counsel has penned a letter to key Republican legislators, telling them they will have to reissue requests for documents they’ve made in the past month relating to investigations they plan to open when the party controls the House.
When it became clear that Republicans would win control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the presumptive next chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Kentucky), the presumptive next chair of the Oversight Committee, both sent requests to the Biden administration for documents relating to investigations they plan to open.
Such investigations will likely focus on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the federal government’s response to violent threats against school boards across the country in 2021, and past business dealings by the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
White House counsel Richard Sauber responded to the lawmakers’ requests this week, reminding them that the requests aren’t official because Republicans are still the minority party in Congress for at least another week.
“The requests in your letters were not made as part of the congressional oversight process in the 117th Congress to which the constitutional accommodation obligations apply,” Sauber wrote in his letter to the Republican lawmakers.
Sauber reminded Jordan and Comer that “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.”
“Should the Committee issue similar or other requests in the 118th Congress” — which is set to start on January 3, 2023 — “we will review and respond to them in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches,” Sauber said. “We expect the new Congress will undertake its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith.”
The letter from Sauber is an indication that Republicans and the White House will likely be at odds when it comes to congressional oversight of the administration, which the GOP has promised to aggressively pursue.
The Twitter account for the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee responded to reporting on the letter by stating it “shows how scared [the White House is] of important congressional oversight.” The account also made the unverified claim that Sauber’s letter was part of a “coordinated effort between the White House and ‘journalists’ at Politico,” which broke the news of the letter.
“It just shows how the media and White House will work hand-in-hand politically to obstruct legitimate constitutional oversight,” the account said.
Notably, the letter from the White House simply reminds Republicans that they must wait until they’re sworn in as committee chairs before issuing oversight demands.
Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s office, provided additional context to the letter from Sauber, reiterating that the administration intends “to work in good faith to provide appropriate information to Congress.” But Sams also noted that House Republicans may not have the interests of the American people in mind.
“Political stunts like subpoena threats from the minority suggest House Republicans might be spending more time thinking about how to get booked on [Fox News’s] ‘Hannity’ [program] than on preparing to work together to help the American people,” Sams said in a statement.
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