Republicans may have failed Tuesday to give themselves a pass on ethics violations, but they succeeded in sneaking through a rules change that vastly broadens their ability to harass both private citizens and government officials. A GOP-authored provision inserted into a House rules package will allow congressional staffers to question subjects of GOP inquiries under oath without the presence of a congressional member in some cases. The top Democrat on the Rules Committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, said the GOP was simply expanding its power to conduct political witch hunts, reports Billy House.
"Freely handing out the power to compel any American to appear, sit in a room, and answer staff’s invasive questions on the record -- without members even being required to be present -- is truly unprecedented, unwarranted, and offensive," she said. [...]
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said, “This rules change represents a shocking continuation and expansion of House Republicans’ abusing of congressional processes to intimidate private citizens just as they did with the Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health."
"Intimidate" is the operative word here. Republican members on the Hill are granting both them and their staffers more power to intimidate anyone they deem hostile to their cause. Over the past two years, similar powers had been granted to five House panels as a "pilot program," now more committees will have the same option. This increases the probability that depositions will both become more routine and drag on for longer periods of time. It will also give elected representatives plausible deniability when abuses of such powers are uncovered, as they surely will be at some point down the road.
Welcome to total GOP control—private citizens are now fair game, even when congressional members can’t make the time to depose them in person.