DemDaily: Be It Dissolved

February 14, 2023

Despite the apparent dysfunction of their first six weeks in control of the US House of Representatives, Republicans have been busy organizing the new House, exercising their authority to reshuffle the committees of the lower chamber.

Although the fundamental structure and oversight of the current House committees has been in place since the end of World War II, the majority party of each new Congress has the power to dissolve and create certain committees.

Be It Dissolved
In a recent move, the Republican House Oversight Committee has disbanded the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The subcommittee, established after Democrats took the House majority in the 2018 elections, was created to "shine a bright light on violations of the civil rights and civil liberties of the people wherever they occur, make progress at a time when our most precious values are under attack," according to then-Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

The Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties had oversight jurisdiction over issues related to civil rights, civil liberties and the equal protection of laws, including voting rights; freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly; equal employment; nondisclosure agreements; criminal justice reform policies; and legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the Census Bureau and the Census.

A statement from the Oversight Committee offered little explanation other than "Oversight Republicans are realigning subcommittees to ensure "efficiency," and that, "going forward, subcommittees will now be better equipped to meet our mission, identify problems, and propose meaningful legislative reforms for the American people.”

Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (KY) said, "any topic that’s not mentioned in the subcommittee jurisdiction is reserved for the full committee. We can have a committee hearing in this committee on basically anything we want."

Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), a member of the Committee, said the GOP's “reckless and cruel” action sends an “unmistakable message to the American people that their civil rights and civil liberties are no longer a priority to the 118th Congress.”

“Rather than squandering their authority on investigations of the President’s family, the Chairman and House Republicans should use their authority to conduct oversight and investigate the merciless murders of innocent Americans – mainly Americans who look like me – at the hands of law enforcement,” said Crockett, a Black civil rights attorney.

“Especially in a time like this -- when across the nation, from small towns to big cities, Americans are crying out against the horrible injustice that was perpetrated against Tyre Nichols and so many others every single day -- it is undeniable that the civil rights of the American people are under threat and this committee must do something about it.” -- Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (D-TX)

Crockett called on Republicans to reinstate the subcommittee and hold a hearing on the investigation of the murder of Nichols, whose brutal death at the hands of five Memphis policemen in January reignited nationwide protests and calls for police reform.

Her amendment to reinstate the committee was voted down along party lines.

In the same meeting, newly appointed Oversight Committee member Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said while Nichols’ death was tragic, she doubted it was a civil rights issue.

Instead, she offered up the death of Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol Hill policeman while taking part in the January 6 insurrection, saying, “I believe that there are many people that came into the Capitol January 6 whose civil rights and liberties are being violated heavily.”

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has also eliminated its Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.

Newly defunct select committees include the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, Select Committee on Modernization of Congress, and the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

DemDaily: Composition of The New Congress 1/30/23
DemDaily: Committees of the 118th Congress. The Senate 1/23/23
DemDaily: Committees of the 118th Congress. The House 1/20/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: US House, The Hill, Roll Call, Newsweek

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