U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who joined Congress in 2016, is lined up to become the next chair of the House Oversight Committee because the GOP won control of the House of Representatives in last week’s election.
As the committee’s top Republican, Comer is familiar with the committee’s investigative responsibilities. He knew this promotion could happen and has discussed what his initial priorities will be in various interviews.
Here are three things to expect from Comer once he gets the gavel.
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Comer wants to investigate Hunter Biden’s impact on dad’s leadership
Comer has said he wants the committee to look more closely at President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, whom the Justice Department has been investigating over his business dealings and other matters.
That investigation began during former President Donald Trump’s administration. In the meantime, Hunter Biden has been the subject of a lot of right-wing speculation.
Comer has called Hunter Biden a “national security threat” and expressed particular interest in his finances and his business activity overseas. He indicated inquiries would look into whether the younger Biden had compromised his father’s leadership, telling TIME: “The Hunter Biden investigation is slowly becoming the Joe Biden investigation.”
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Expect him to dig into COVID-19 issues, including the virus’ beginnings
Comer has told news outlets he wants to direct the committee’s attention toward pandemic-related inquiries, especially the origins of COVID-19.
Scientists continue to examine the emergence of this dangerous disease. Multiple studies have linked it to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, and many scientists have said evidence indicates the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 probably jumped naturally from animals to humans. However, a theory that the virus leaked from a Wuhan-based research lab has not been ruled out.
Other priorities Comer has listed include examining fraud concerns regarding federal coronavirus relief initiatives. (The Paycheck Protection Program, which made about $800 billion in forgivable loans to businesses, has already gotten significant public scrutiny.)
He also suggested Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, wouldn’t be out-of-bounds for oversight just because he’s retiring.
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No ‘dog-and-pony show,’ but he’d welcome Marjorie Taylor Greene
Comer said this summer that he wants Republicans and Democrats to take the committee’s work under his leadership seriously and has reviewed how chairs from both parties handled the job.
“This isn’t a dog-and-pony show. This isn’t a committee where everybody’s gonna scream and be outraged and try to make the witnesses look like fools,” he told Politico.
Comer raised eyebrows, though, when he indicated he’d welcome controversial U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who has spread far-right conspiracy theories and regularly makes polarizing comments, to the committee.
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He has told journalists he wants his performance to be seen as fair and indicated he plans to be judicious, rather than overzealous, in his use of congressional subpoena powers.
“I want to hope that when my time is done as chairman of the Oversight Committee, they will say, ‘He was fair, we didn’t try to do anything overtly political,'” he told The Hill.
Reach reporter Morgan Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.