House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made an infamous mistake in September 2015: The California Republican effectively admitted that the Republicans' Benghazi investigation was a political scheme to undermine Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It was a striking reminder that GOP leaders were comfortable using congressional probes for electoral purposes.
Six years later, it's hardly a secret that the party has similar ambitions. Just a few weeks ago, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, looking ahead to the next Congress, told reporters, "We are going to take power after this next election and when we do, it's not going to be the days of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy and no real oversight and no real subpoenas. It's going to be the days of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dr. [Paul] Gosar and myself doing everything to get the answers to these questions."
But what, exactly, are the questions? Nearly a year into Joe Biden's presidency, there have been no meaningful political scandals for his GOP detractors to scrutinize, but Axios reported that House Republicans, hoping to reclaim a majority next year, are already writing up a list.
The plans, obtained exclusively by Axios, show House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy would make muscular use of majority powers for the last two years of President Biden's term if, as expected, the GOP wins the majority in next year's midterms. McCarthy plans to send a spate of "preservation notices" to departments throughout Biden's Cabinet, ordering them to retain documents that might be needed for future GOP oversight hearings.
Right off the bat, we already know that a House Republican majority, should it materialize, would end the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. It's one of the reasons that the bipartisan panel is racing to get answers now — because it has 12 months to get answers and release its findings.
We also know how likely it is that the GOP won't have a legislative agenda to work on — especially given the Democratic White House — which means the party can invest all of its energies into electoral schemes masquerading as congressional oversight hearings.
As for what, specifically, Republicans intend to investigate, Axios' report pointed to some doozies, including dubious concerns that the NSA spied on Fox News' Tucker Carlson and the Justice Department's efforts to protect educators from violent threats.
Remember, this isn't a situation in which GOP lawmakers genuinely believe the NSA spied on a conservative media host, or that federal law enforcement sent FBI agents to unsuspecting homes to harass parents for asking harmless questions at school board meetings. It's McCarthy's 2015 Benghazi strategy all over again: Republicans believe they can score political points by way of congressional spectacles.
The party has an unfortunate track record in this area — remember when then-Rep. Dan Burton shot a melon in his back yard in pursuit of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories? — and if voters give Republicans a chance, the GOP seems eager to make matters worse.
Axios' report concluded, "McCarthy plans to beef up staff, counsel and other resources to be ready to extract information beginning Day 1 if the GOP gets the gavel." Watch this space.