A top White House lawyer told two leading Republicans the oversight requests they issued during the last Congress would have to be reissued once the GOP assumes their House majority next week.
The letter sent to Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer, the incoming chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, provides an early look at how the White House plans to contend with what are expected to be a litany of Republican probes, which Biden’s team views as politically motivated.
The White House has been working over the past several months to assemble a team of lawyers and other advisers to handle an expected onslaught of oversight requests. Thursday’s letter is the first indication of the team’s approach – one that vows cooperation but nonetheless pushes back on what the White House views as oversteps.
Jordan and Comer had started demanding records from the Biden administration beginning shortly after it became clear in November that Republicans would gain enough seats in the House to take the majority in the chamber from Democrats. They set deadlines in December.
But in his letter, Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber writes the two Republicans don’t yet have standing to make their requests – and that they would need to resubmit their requests once the new Congress begins next week.
“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,” wrote Sauber, who is one of the White House’s top oversight lawyers.
“Should the Committee issue similar or other requests in the 118th Congress, we will review and respond to them in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches. We expect the new Congress will undertake its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith,” Sauber wrote.
Politico first reported on the letters from the White House lawyer.
House Republicans have vowed to investigate a wealth of issues related to the Biden administration, including the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, Hunter Biden’s business engagements and the federal government’s response to school board meetings.
Jordan and Comer have threatened the use of subpoenas to obtain documents and information from the administration. The White House said Biden’s focus would remain on other priorities as Republicans mount their investigations.
House Judiciary Republicans responded to the White House’s letter on Twitter, accusing the administration of “playing games” and adding: “It shows how scared you are of important congressional oversight, particularly one where your administration targeted parents protesting at local school board meetings.”
“This is why it’s so important for us to hit the ground running on January 3rd,” they added. “Get ready.”
In a statement, Comer said, “President Biden promised to have the most transparent administration in history but at every turn the Biden White House seeks to obstruct congressional oversight and hide information from the American people.”
White House officials believe Republicans are bound to overstep in their oversight requests and that their investigative overreach will backfire with the American public. In the meantime, they are prepared to push back forcefully, believing that many proposed investigations are based on conspiracy theories and politically motivated charges.
“As we have over the past two years, we intend to work in good faith to provide appropriate information to Congress, but Americans have made clear they expect their leaders in Washington to work together on their top priorities, like lowering costs. That’s what the president will focus on, and we hope House Republicans join him,” Ian Sams, a spokesman for White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, political stunts like subpoena threats from the minority suggest House Republicans might be spending more time thinking about how to get booked on ‘Hannity’ than on preparing to work together to help the American people,” Sams said, referring to the Fox News program.