U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) speaks during a press conference on September 29, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) speaks during a press conference on September 29, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

House GOP 'Insurrection Protection Committee Is a Sham,' Says Pressley

Progressives within and beyond Congress rejected Republicans' comparisons of the new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government to the historic Church Committee.

Progressives in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday blasted Republicans for using their narrow majority to establish a panel headed by a far-right congressman to "expose the abuses committed by the unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucracy."

In a 221-211 vote along party lines, the GOP approved a resolution creating a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, under the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

"The goal is not justice, but to delegitimize credible investigations into people who attempted to overthrow our government."

Jordan—who infamously defied a congressional subpoena to testify about the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump—took aim at the U.S. Homeland Security and Justice departments as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and key House Democrats in a Tuesday floor speech advocating for the subcommittee.

"Mr. Jordan, who was deeply involved in Mr. Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has for months been investigating what he says is a bias in federal law enforcement against conservatives," The New York Timesreported. "Now that Republicans have the majority, he plans to use his gavel and his subpoena power to escalate and expand that inquiry, including searching for evidence that federal workers have become politicized and demanding documents about ongoing criminal investigations."

While Republicans in Congress have compared their now-official panel to the historic Church Committee—which, in the 1970s, "labored for 16 months to produce a 5,000-page report that is a canonical history of the secret government," as journalist Chris Hayes wrote for The Nation in 2009—progressives, including Hayes last week, have challenged that comparison.

"In 1975, the Senate created a bipartisan Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said after the vote. "Dubbed the Church Committee, the panel uncovered the surveillance and abuses against civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as illegal programs to assassinate foreign leaders. Minnesota legend Walter Mondale served on the committee and his questions helped uncover abuses of power."

Explaining her "no" vote, Omar continued:

I had high hopes that this would be a Church-style committee, where we could investigate surveillance of American citizens, violations of civil liberties, and the intelligence community's overseas abuses of power.

It is clear that this committee is going to be one of personal grievances and defending insurrectionists, led by members who are themselves being investigated for their role in the January 6th insurrection and who have openly defied accountability by not complying with congressional subpoenas. The goal is not justice, but to delegitimize credible investigations into people who attempted to overthrow our government.

Additionally, agency oversight belongs in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform or on an independent committee. The fact that this is being formed under the Judiciary Committee suggests that the goal isn't accountability but rather to obstruct justice and undercut legal investigations they don't agree with.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a fellow "Squad" member, was similarly critical on Tuesday.

"The federal government has already been weaponized by Republicans against Black, brown, and other marginalized groups," she said. "So unless they're investigating themselves, this Insurrection Protection Committee is a sham."

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) called the committee "a fascist power grab to evade accountability" for the January 6 attack.

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) tied the creation of the new panel to the 15 votes and backroom deals it took last week for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to get far-right members of his party to stop blocking his path to the leadership position.

"House Republicans just created a committee with unprecedented power to review criminal investigations and access high-level intelligence for political purposes," Pocan said. "This is what Speaker McCarthy was willing to compromise to be speaker. It's wild."

There were also critics beyond Congress—including Noah Bookbinder, president of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

"This new House subcommittee, specifically set up to investigate ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and FBI into Donald Trump and others, is dangerous and threatens accountability and the rule of law," he said. "We can't accept this as normal."

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