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On possible misconduct, GOP’s Comer worries about the wrong party

If Oversight Committee Chair James Comer is worried about members misbehaving, maybe he should be more concerned with his own party rather than Democrats.


It was just four weeks ago when House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer said his anti-Biden investigation had reached a “downhill phase” and wouldn’t last too much longer. As for the remaining witnesses he and his colleagues still wanted to talk to, the Kentucky Republican expressed flexibility.

“We can bring these people in for depositions or committee hearings, whichever they choose,” he said.

With this in mind, Hunter Biden — a point of near-obsession for Comer — recently received a subpoena and took the chairman up on his offer. In fact, lawyer Abbe Lowell, who’s representing the president’s son, wrote to the GOP congressman this week, indicating that Hunter Biden would be happy to answer the committee’s questions in a public hearing.

Almost immediately thereafter, Comer abandoned the “whichever they choose” comments he made in late October: The president’s son, the Oversight Committee chair said this week, would have to answer questions in private, behind closed doors, without public access.

Offered an opportunity to explain his rationale, Comer struggled to come up with a persuasive pitch. The Hill reported:

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said if Hunter Biden were allowed to testify before the committee in a public hearing rather than behind closed doors, Democrats would be “yelling and screaming” at the event.

“Look, this is a serious investigation,” Comer told Newsmax, a conservative media outlet. He added, in reference to the president’s son, “We need to ask him hundreds of questions. If he comes in for one hearing with 24 members having five minutes each to ask questions, with the Democrats yelling and screaming like they do every hearing, we would probably get about 30 to 35 questions here.”

So, a few things.

First, the GOP’s anti-Biden crusade has been anything but serious.

Second, Comer should probably understand that if he makes a public offer, telling witnesses they can choose to participate in a public hearing, it’s going to be problematic when he refuses to take “yes” for an answer.

Third, committee chairs aren’t supposed to avoid public hearings based on members’ hypothetical misconduct.

But perhaps most importantly, the Oversight Committee chair is apparently convinced that Democrats can’t be trusted to behave in a mature and responsible manner during a congressional hearing — and that’s rather ironic given the recent circumstances.

Over the course of 2023, Americans have seen one House Republican lunge at another on the chamber floor as part of a near-violent confrontation. And an incident in which a Senate Republican was prepared to physically fight a witness during a committee hearing. And a House hearing in which a Republican member showed naked images of a potential witness. And an alleged incident in which the former Republican House speaker elbowed a colleague in the back.

If Comer is worried about members misbehaving, perhaps he should be more concerned with his own party rather than its opponents?