Using an obscure tactic, House Democrats will force their GOP colleagues to take controversial committee votes this week over President Donald Trump’s business ties and the government’s widening Russia probe.
The votes also will deal with the firing of former FBI Director James B. Comey, taxpayer money to the Trump Organization and the government’s lease of the Old Post Office Building to the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Though Republicans have the votes to block all of the measures, as has happened previously, Democrats view these efforts as a way to put Republicans on record and to create a potential battle cry for the midterm elections. Should such matters continue to dog the president into 2018, the minority party wants to link congressional Republicans to Trump’s woes .
Votes on four different resolutions of inquiry are scheduled this week in the House Judiciary, Financial Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. Additional resolutions are forthcoming, likely after the August recess, in the Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs panels, according to congressional Democrats.
The resolutions of inquiry allow members to vote in committee on whether they would like to request documents from the administration. If these resolutions are not considered within 14 legislative days of introduction by the committees or jurisdiction, then they can be brought for a vote on the House floor.
“For six months, we have watched the Trump administration make a mockery of our laws and the highest office in our land while our Republican colleagues refuse to allow hearings on obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who has offered the Judiciary resolution requesting documents related to Comey’s firing, along with Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.
Jayapal’s resolution, slated for a Wednesday markup, would seek information about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ involvement in Comey’s dismissal and Sessions’ recusal in the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion by Trump campaign officials.
“We have a duty as members of Congress and the Judiciary Committee to exercise oversight over the administration and the Justice Department,” Jayapal added.
Messaging for 2018
Spokesmen for House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., did not respond to a request for comment. But during a February markup of a prior resolution of inquiry from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., asking for DOJ documents related to Russian interference and other matters, Goodlatte said he believed the “resolution is unnecessary, premature, and not the best way for this Committee or the House to conduct oversight over the issues covered by the resolution.”
Goodlatte noted at the time that Judiciary ,along with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had already “taken action to address some of the issues raised in the resolution.” He also said that such resolutions “are not subpoenas — they have no legal force or effect.”
The resolutions of inquiry are part of a larger messaging effort from House Democrats to raise the prominence of ethics matters with their eye on the 2018 midterm elections. House Democrats last week, including Jayapal, unveiled what they dubbed a “By the People Project” that will ultimately include a package of bills aimed at updating the nation’s ethics, campaign finance and voting laws.
The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a vote Tuesday on a resolution of inquiry from California Rep. Maxine Waters, the panel’s top Democrat. Her measure would compel the Treasury Department to provide documents related to Trump’s financial connections to Russia.
A spokeswoman for the committee’s chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, did not respond to a request for comment.
“Unfortunately, our requests to Chairman Jeb Hensarling that he utilize the investigative powers of the Committee to look into matters pertaining to Donald Trump and his financial dealings have been completely ignored,” Waters said in a statement.
The House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution of inquiry from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., and other Democrats, that would direct the Department of Homeland Security to provide the committee with information and documents detailing payments the department has made that relates to the Trump Organization and Trump family members’ travel for Trump Organization business.
DHS includes the Secret Service, which is charged with providing protection to Trump and his family. The president’s adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, run the family business.
“Each day American taxpayers ask this Administration for a balanced budget, good-paying jobs, living wages and affordable healthcare and instead are paid lip-service as the President and his adult children enrich themselves at America’s expense," Watson Coleman said of her resolution
The House Transportation and Infrastructure panel is expected to vote on a resolution of inquiry from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., that would seek government communications related to the lease of the Old Post Office Building.
Nadler made clear his effort earlier this year, telling CQ: “The resolution of inquiry is a tactic to force Republicans to vote either to support the resolution of inquiry or to continue a cover-up.”