Last night, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts’ representative Ayanna Pressley made headlines after winning highly coveted seats on the House Oversight committee.
“Coming to a committee hearing near you,” Pressley tweeted, followed by a gif with a caption reading, “I have the receipts.” But for those of you who aren’t in the know, what does this powerful committee actually oversee? Here’s the low-down on the importance of the House Oversight committee and why it’s more necessary than ever.
What does the House Oversight Committee do?
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is an investigative body within the House of Representatives. They have the ability to investigate any matter within their “jurisdiction,” which includes everything from operations to reorganization of the executive branch of the government. In other words, the committee wields a lot of power, though this comes with a caveat.
The minority party on the committee lacks the ability to subpoena individuals for investigation without the majority party’s approval. Accordingly, Democrats have had a tricky few years investigating anyone, with Republicans as the majority party since the start of Trump’s administration. Elijah Cummings, current chair of the committee, issued roughly 64 subpoena requests in the last two years. All were rejected.
There are a number of subcommittees that fall within the overall committee too, with each overseeing a particular branch, like the environment, healthcare, or national security.
Will they investigate Trump?
It’s very likely they will. In February, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify in front of the committee, where he’s expected to share information about Trump. (In an interview with ABC News in December, Cohen had already discussed Trump’s illegal payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the campaign).
As recent as Wednesday, the committee has also begun its probe into the security clearance process at the White House, questioning Jared Kushner’s unprecedented security access to classified information.
Trump’s tax returns are likely on the committee’s agenda, too.
So Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley on the committee is a good thing?
It’s a great thing—if you want change. With Democrats as the new majority party in the house and committee and a number of outspoken Trump critics involved, the committee can investigate without roadblocks in their way.
If you want to stay up to date on committee hearings, you can read press releases and hearings on the committee’s website.