House Democrats will participate in all of the various special committee investigations being teed up by GOP leaders, the Democrats’ caucus chairman vowed on Tuesday.
“It is our intent to seat members on … every select committee, every subcommittee that the leadership on the majority side advances,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol.
That move would mark a shift from the Republicans’ strategy in the past Congress, when GOP leaders boycotted the select committee formed to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — an abstention that some Republicans came to regret, since it left former President Trump without a line of defense throughout the marathon probe.
Aguilar said Democrats won’t make the same mistake this cycle, when Republicans are poised to create a series of special committees to investigate the Biden administration and other facets of federal policy, including what Republicans consider the “weaponization” of the government to target Trump and other conservatives unfairly.
“We call that the ‘tinfoil hat committee’ in our caucus,” Aguilar said.
Aside from the weaponization select subcommittee, which will emerge as a special branch of the Judiciary Committee, Republicans are also set to create a select committee on U.S. strategy towards China. Both panels are set to get floor votes on Tuesday afternoon.
GOP leaders are also vowing to probe the origins of COVID-19. And Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has promised to launch an investigation into the Jan. 6 investigation, although the specifics of that probe remain unclear.
The parties have approached select committees very differently from the minority.
In 2021, McCarthy had yanked Republicans from the Jan. 6 select committee after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) removed two of his five selections.
Pelosi said that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who had consulted with Trump on efforts to block the 2020 election results in the lead up to the Jan. 6 rampage, was a material witness to the saga and should not be part of overseeing the investigation. Pelosi said the second Republican McCarthy chose, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), disqualified himself in vowing to investigate the Biden administration’s role in Jan. 6 — even though Trump was still in office that day.
Ultimately it was Pelosi who selected the only two Republicans on the panel: then-Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Liz Cheney (Wyo.).
McCarthy’s boycott came under intense scrutiny with the launch of the select committee’s public hearings, which prompted even Trump to question the wisdom of leaving him defenseless on the panel.
“Unfortunately, a bad decision was made,” Trump said at the time. “It was a bad decision not to have representation on this committee. That was a very, very foolish decision.”
In 2014, then House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faced a similar decision, after Republicans created a select committee to investigate the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Despite some calls from Democrats to boycott the panel for fear of legitimizing it, she chose to participate, tapping the late-Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to lead the defense of the committee’s target: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
This time around, Aguilar said Democrats will be following Pelosi’s example.
“It’s in our best interest to make sure we are representing the will of the caucus and the American public, and that Republicans don’t have an opportunity behind closed doors to shape, and to add to, these conspiracy theories,” Aguilar said.
He declined to say which Democrats might sit on the weaponization panel or any other of the committees.
“There’s a process by which members will raise their hands and let leadership know what they’re interested in,” he said.