Democrats fill out select committees on Intel, China, COVID-19 and weaponization

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)
Annabelle Gordon
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) talks during his weekly on-camera press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 26, 2023.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday filled out the final spots for the party’s committee roster in the new Congress, naming the members of the select committees on Intelligence, China, COVID-19 and the “weaponization” of government.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) secured the party’s top spot on the House Intelligence — an expected ascension that came after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blocked Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) from the panel.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, will take the top Democratic seat on the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, a panel created last month with broad bipartisan support.

Leading the Democrats on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will be Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), a former emergency room physician who will likely face off against Republicans over both the origins of COVID-19 and the federal response to the pandemic.

And Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) will serve as ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Plaskett served as a manager in the second impeachment of former President Trump, following the Jan. 6, 2021, rampage at the Capitol, and will now have the responsibility of leading the Democrats’ defense of the Biden administration — and federal institutions more broadly — in the face of Republican charges of a “deep state” conspiracy against conservatives.

In making the announcements, Jeffries vowed that Democrats will collaborate with select committee Republicans whenever the opportunity arises, but will fight back against political attacks when the situation demands.

“Under the leadership of our four Ranking Members, House Democrats will endeavor to work in a bipartisan fashion where possible and will also stand up to extremism from the other side of the aisle wherever and whenever necessary,” he said. 

Jeffries’s decision to seat Democrats on all the select committees — even the most polarizing panels — marked a departure from McCarthy’s strategy in the last Congress, when Republicans boycotted the special committee created to investigate Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Many Republicans criticized that decision — including Trump — after the investigation went public with a long series of televised hearings, where the former president was without a line of defense.

Democrats have adopted a different approach, placing members on even the most controversial committees to ensure that Biden and his administration have voices in their corner to counter the Republican attacks.

The weaponization committee, which was created along strict party lines, is expected to be the most polarizing, with GOP leaders tapping Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a pugnacious Trump ally, as the chairman. Jordan has accused the federal government, particularly the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, of an inherent bias against conservatives — a charge that both the agencies and congressional Democrats refute.

“This committee is nothing more than a deranged ploy by the MAGA extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party and now want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said during the vote to form the panel.

Plaskett was one of several Democrats who fell off of the powerful Ways and Means Committee this year as part of the reshuffling that saw Democrats lose seats as they fell into the minority.  

Aside from Plaskett, the Democrats on the panel will be Reps. Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Colin Allred (Texas), Sylvia Garcia (Texas) and Dan Goldman, a New York freshman.

The COVID-19 panel, led by GOP Rep. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), is also expected to be an arena of partisan combat.

Since the pandemic hit three years ago, Republicans have bashed public health officials — particularly Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — for recommending masks, commercial shutdowns and other precautionary measures to fight the virus. They’ve also accused Fauci and other health officials of disguising the origin of the coronavirus and the government’s gain-of-function research in China — highly partisan topics that are sure to surface quickly when the panel begins its work.

Providing the defense, Ruiz will be joined by Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Kweisi Mfume (Md.), Deborah Ross (N.C.) and Robert Garcia, a freshman from California.

The China committee is expected to be more cordial, as both parties are voicing concerns that Beijing’s growing global presence poses a direct threat to America’s national security and economic well-being. The panel was created with broad bipartisan support, and is chaired by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a member of the Intelligence Committee who has worked well with Democrats. He and Krishnamoorthi have already co-sponsored legislation to ban Tim-Tok across the country.

The other Democrats on the China panel will be Reps. Kathy Castor (Fla.), André Carson (Ind), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Andy Kim (N.J.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Haley Stevens (Mich.), Jake Auchincloss (Mass.), Ritchie Torres (N.Y.) and Shontel Brown (Ohio).

In choosing a top Democrat for the Intelligence Committee, Jeffries faced a bounty of options: Virtually every Democrat on the panel, including Carson and Krishnamoorthi, was interested in replacing Schiff. Himes, however, was the expected pick of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had she remained in power, and Jeffries didn’t stray from that plan.

Joining Himes on Intel will be Democratic Reps. Carson, Joaquin Castro (Texas), Krishnamoorthi, Jason Crow (Colo.), Ami Bera (Calif.), Plaskett, Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Jimmy Gomez (Calif.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.).

The panel is led by Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio).

Updated at 7:54 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Donald Trump Hakeem Jeffries Jim Himes Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Raja Krishnamoorthi Raul Ruiz Stacey Plaskett

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