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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Freshman Democrats avoid controversy in letter to Dem leadership

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The letter the incoming members of the House of Representatives sent to the Democratic leadership team is making the news, for example “Freshman Democrats: Legislation, not investigations, should be House priority” in the Washington Post.

Democratic Reps.-elect Abigail Spanberger (Va.), second from left, Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), Elaine Luria (Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) speak about their office assignments on Capitol Hill last week. All four signed a letter delivered Monday asking for an emphasis on legislation over investigations in the next Congress. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)





And Dana Milbank on MSNBC:

Dana Milbank on MSNBC

The letter seems to be an attempt to send the message to the public, mindful of the polls showing the priorities of those who elected them, that they are not hellbent to “get Donald Trump.”

Here are some relevant excerpts with my emphasis added:

For the success of the 116th Congress, the undersigned therefore urge our leadership to adopt the following approaches:

  • On the legislative agenda, we must heed the call from our constituents. While we have a duty to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch, particularly when the Administration crosses legal lines or contravenes American values, we must prioritize action on topics such as the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, our crumbling infrastructure, immigration, gun safety, the environment, and criminal justice reform. In order to maximize progress on these topics, many of the undersigned have already called for a comprehensive anti-corruption and campaign finance reform bill to be the first item addressed by the 116th Congress.
  • On committee representation, we respectfully request that members of our incoming class be assigned to the exclusive committees of Appropriations, Rules, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Financial Services. The voters have asked for our voices to be heard, and to do that, this class must be a driving force in drafting legislation with far-reaching economic implications for the country.

You can read a PDF of the letter here.

The House has 21 standing committees, plus one extremely important one, the Permanent Committee on Intelligence. Only a few of these make the news on a regular basis. What seems to be missing in the reporting is an acknowledgement that there are two committees that absolutely must address the transgressions of Trump and his administration. In particular the Select Intelligence Committee on Intelligence, now without Devin Nunes as the cover-upper-in-chief, must revisit the Russia investigation.

This is from Foreign Policy Magazine:

With Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives following Tuesday’s midterm elections, they will take over a prize possession: the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, with full subpoena power to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

During Trump’s first two years in office, House Republicans used the committee largely to protect him. In an interview with Foreign Policy, one of the committee’s ambitious young Democrats, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, explained exactly how that would change.

The Democrats’ investigation would focus on bank and travel records of Trump lieutenants and businesses. It would also attempt to resolve questions about the president’s knowledge of a Russian offer during the 2016 campaign to provide political dirt on his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. And in the aftermath of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, the committee might also scrutinize Trump’s business ties to the Gulf. While Senate committees typically require the assent of the chairman and ranking member to issue a subpoena, House committees grant that authority to the chairman alone. This makes the House Intelligence Committee, with its jurisdiction over the massive U.S. intelligence community, a uniquely powerful tool in the hands of a savvy investigator.

This committee will be led by Adam Schiff.

The other committee which may investigate Trump and his minions is Judiciary where Jerold Nadler will replace Trey Gowdy.

These committees are not the ones which the new members want to be assigned to, namely Appropriations, Rules, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Financial Services.

There are several committees which might be also concerned with investigating suspected unethical and illegal activities of the Trump family and his administration, for example Financial Services which may have cause to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. I think it is best to leave all the investigations of Trump and Russia, emoluments, money laundering, and related  grounds for impeachment to the fewest committees as possible.

I believe that the incoming House Democrats are as anti-Trump as all other Democrats in Congress. However, they are mindful that they have to win again in two years and need to return to thir home districts with legislative accomplishments they can tout to their voters.


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