Squad members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Tlaib (Mich), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) were joined this week by newcomer Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is one of the most influential committees.
This was not AOC’s first choice – the mastermind behind the Green New Deal would have preferred a seat seat on the House energy and commerce committee, where she could gain traction with mainstream voters. But she was beaten by mainstream Democrat Rep. Kathleen Rice, also a New Yorker but a centrist, 46-13. And so, AOC and the rest of the guerilla girls are stuck in Oversight and Reform.
The committee chair is another centrist New Yorker, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose 12th district is not far from AOC’s 14th, but whose views are miles to her right. Rep. Katie Porter, the first Democrat representing Orange County in Southern California, a law professor with a Harvard degree who taught at UC Irvine School of Law, and a voice of reason in the party, has also been appointed to Oversight and Reform. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida, an establishment Democrat, is another centrist on the committee.
So, what kind of damage can we expect from the four squad ladies? The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the main investigative committee of the House. It has a broad jurisdiction, Maloney is one of only three committee chairs who can issue subpoenas unilaterally, without a vote in committee or even consulting the ranking members – although in recent years this power has not been used so much.
The committee had 25 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the 116th Congress. The updated list is not yet available on the committee’s website. It stands to reason that, reflecting the Republican gain last November, there will be slightly fewer Democrats and slightly more Republicans on hand. But any committee work begins and ends with the chairperson, and even four members can’t challenge her authority effectively. On the other hand, Pelosi et al owe the Squad a favor for helping the Speaker squeak by the members’ opposition. So don’t expect a whole lot of craziness from the Squad on this committee, if they behave.
The last time the Committee on Oversight and Reform made the headlines was when it held a hearing in July 2019 on “Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border,” regarding the “inhumane treatment of children and families” inside child detention centers on the southern US border. The session included testimony from the mother of a 19-months-old baby who died while detained in an ICE center in Texas. The hearing did a lot to curb the detention of children who had been pulled away from their parents with whom they had crossed the border illegally.
In December, the committee’s agenda met on the Role of Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family in the Opioid Epidemic, and debated the Elements of Presidential Transitions. See you after January 20.