Congressional investigations thrive in divided government. With a constrained ability to advance policy through legislation, Members are more likely to turn to investigations as a means of making headlines and affecting private sector practices.
The Democratic Senate majority and the Republican House majority give the respective majorities the ability to control the agenda of each chamber, and likely virtually unfettered subpoena power. Democrats will preside over all Senate committees and have control of the Senate agenda. Likewise, Republicans will preside over all House committees and have control of the House agenda. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican Conference nominee for Speaker of the House, recently released a sweeping Oversight plan for “Oversight in the 118th Congress,” which is discussed below.
Congressional investigations have been on the rise generally in the past several years, and all signs indicate that investigations in the 118th Congress will be prolific and particularly challenging, especially for the companies, industries, and individuals that are a central focus of GOP critiques. As part of these investigations, incoming House Republican committee chairs will possess virtually unchecked power to issue subpoenas, demand documents, call hearings, and compel witnesses to testify.
Congressional investigators have a large toolkit. There are a number of ways Congress can exert pressure on companies and individuals, and this has expanded in recent years. In the new Congress, recent developments in congressional investigations will be precedent-setting for newly empowered House GOP committees, who likely will look to the tactics and techniques that the current Democratic-led committees employed in the past few years for creative investigative ideas. For example, many Americans watched the January 6th Select Committee hearings and that Committee’s effective use of videotaped deposition testimony. In the future, we anticipate that more committees will use videotaped depositions, both to put additional pressure on witnesses and to generate additional headlines.
Continue Reading Congressional Investigations in the 118th Congress