WASHINGTON - Republicans may have won control of the House by only the slimmest of margins, but in a chamber that operates purely by majority rule, their razor-thin edge has given them all the tools they need to plunge the Biden administration into a morass of investigations.
Wielding gavels and subpoena power, the Republicans set to lead influential House committees have pledged to bedevil President Joe Biden on a litany of issues, including the foreign business dealings of his son Hunter, security at the southern border, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Justice Department's initiative to address threats of violence and harassment directed at school administrators and school board members.
At the same time, they will face calls from their conservative base - and an influential clutch of hard-liners in Congress - to impeach a phalanx of officials, from Biden to the vice president and Cabinet secretaries.
And at least some of them will need to find a way to produce legislation - at a minimum, bills to fund the government - that can make it through the Democratic-led Senate and be signed by Biden.
While House Republicans made modest gains in diversifying this year, their senior ranks reflect the overwhelmingly white, male makeup of their conference. The party is on track to have no people of color leading committees - a notable shift from House Democrats, who have six Black lawmakers, two Latino legislators and an Asian American in those posts. Republicans are also set to have only two or three women leading committees, down from the seven Democratic women who now hold gavels.
Here's a look at some of the key players.
Kay Granger of Texas
Granger, the first female mayor of Fort Worth and a 13-term congresswoman, is on track to become the first Republican woman to take the helm of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls government spending.
It will fall to her to steer a dozen funding bills through the House in the face of opposition from anti-spending Republicans, which will most likely entail negotiating with Democrats to win the necessary votes.
While Granger has at times opposed short-term spending legislation under the Biden administration, she has repeatedly lobbied for increases in military spending and investments in the F-35 fighter jets that are built in her district.
Mike D. Rogers of Alabama
Rogers, a deeply conservative 10-term congressman is in line to become chair of the Armed Services Committee, which has historically operated in a bipartisan way.
Rogers, who was one of the key architects in Congress of the Space Force, has called for the Biden administration to increase military spending. As the leader of the committee, he will be responsible for ensuring the passage of the annual defense authorization bill, which directs military policy and outlines the Pentagon budget each year.
ENERGY AND COMMERCE
Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington
The former chair of the House Republican Conference, McMorris Rodgers is in line to become the first woman to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of three major investigative committees in the chamber.
McMorris Rodgers has pledged to use her perch to scrutinize the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including bringing Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president and a favorite target of Republicans, before her panel. Oversight of Fauci's actions, she has said, "will continue past his departure and until the American people have the answers they need."
She has also indicated she will dig into TikTok, after recently teaming up with Rep. James R. Comer, R-Ky., who is likely to lead the Oversight Committee, to send the social media company a letter raising concerns that it provided misleading information to Congress about its data sharing and privacy practices with the Chinese government.
Michael T. McCaul of Texas
McCaul, a former federal prosecutor, is poised to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is expected to lead an investigation into the Biden administration's handling of the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. The investigation is likely to focus on the planning in the run-up to the evacuation, botched efforts to evacuate Afghan interpreters and contractors who aided the U.S. government, and the consequences of the withdrawal.
A longtime China hawk, McCaul has said his top priority is to help the United States counter a rising Beijing, including toughening export controls of sensitive military technology and bolstering arms sales to Taiwan.
McCaul has been a vocal supporter of military aid to Ukraine, suggesting that he might use his gavel to help counter the growing tide of anti-interventionist voices in his party clamoring to scale back or cut off aid entirely. He has said his panel will exercise more oversight into where the aid is going.
Jim Jordan of Ohio
Few Republicans are likely to play a larger role in the new Congress than Jordan, the founding chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus and an eight-term congressman who is in line to become chair of the Judiciary Committee.
An ally of former President Donald Trump, Jordan has gone from a potential opponent of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to a supporter of McCarthy's bid to become speaker.
As the Judiciary Committee's chair, Jordan has pledged to investigate what he describes as the politicization of the Justice Department and the FBI. His staff recently released a 1,000-page report on the subject, but it was mostly a collection of letters the panel sent.
McCarthy said this week that Jordan and Comer would lead an investigation into Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to "determine whether to begin an impeachment inquiry."
James R. Comer of Kentucky
Comer, a former state legislator and Kentucky agriculture commissioner who has served in Congress for six years has been eagerly awaiting his chance to lead a wide array of investigations with the subpoena power that comes with Republican control of the House.
Comer has said he has obtained the contents of a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, the president's son, whose business activities are under federal investigation.
Comer and Jordan held a news conference on Capitol Hill recently detailing their plans to take the inquiry's focus beyond the younger Biden. "This is an investigation of Joe Biden," Comer said.
In addition to the Biden family's businesses, Comer has said his committee will investigate the administration's handling of the southern border, the origins of COVID-19, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and whether there was mismanagement of pandemic relief funds, among other things.
"The American people want accountability in Washington and Republicans are ready to deliver," he said in a statement.
WAYS AND MEANS
Three Republicans are competing to lead the committee responsible for setting the nation's tax and trade policy.
Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, is seeking to jump to his party's top spot on the Ways and Means Committee, where he could play a more prominent role in the debate over how to handle the looming insolvency of programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Smith has vowed to lead oversight of the IRS and craft tax and trade legislation that strengthens the United States' position against China, an aide said.
Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida has also made clear he wants the post, having led several subcommittees and demonstrated a prolific fundraising ability on behalf of the House Republican campaign arm. Buchanan has stressed his experience as a business owner and has championed making the 2017 Republican tax law permanent.
Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska is also running for the position, highlighting his policy credentials and the work he has done on the committee since 2010. He has also been involved in carrying out a bipartisan trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
Rep. Mark E. Green of Tennessee, a former Army Ranger medic who was part of the mission that captured Saddam Hussein, is facing off against Rep. Daniel Crenshaw of Texas, a former Navy SEAL officer, for the gavel of the Homeland Security Committee. Whoever prevails will play a role in what leading Republicans have promised will be an aggressive investigation of Mayorkas and the administration's border policies.
Green and Crenshaw are two-term congressmen who are deeply conservative and have military backgrounds. Green is a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, while Crenshaw has scrapped with the hard-right flank of his party.
Both have said they intend to hold the Biden administration accountable for the immigration crisis at the southern border, as well as work to strengthen the government's approach to cybersecurity.
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