Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee

Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee
© Greg Nash

House conservatives are blaming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R-Calif.) for Twitter’s decision to have its founder publicly testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee instead of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where a number of conservative members sit.

The far-right Freedom Caucus and its allies argued that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was likely to get a more favorable reception from the Energy and Commerce panel in comparison to Oversight, which counts Freedom Caucus leaders Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP lawmakers, Trump campaign rip 'liberal law professors' testifying in impeachment hearing Live coverage: Witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem impeachment report highlights phone records Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ohio) among its members.

“The majority leader talks tough on tech then sends [Dorsey] to the friendly confines of the industry-friendly Energy & Commerce Committee,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise George Conway calls out Melania Trump after she criticizes impeachment witness: 'You're amplifying what was a nothingburger reference' Impeachment witness apologizes for mentioning Barron Trump in hearing MORE (R-Fla.), who says he has been unfairly censored on social media, told The Hill.  

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Gaetz, who is not a Freedom Caucus member, said that when he complained to McCarthy, the leader told him he should trust the members of the other panel.

“I had a discussion with him about this. He told me to trust my colleagues more,” Gaetz said.

In a brief interview in the Capitol, McCarthy downplayed the spat and said it was clear that Energy and Commerce had jurisdiction over communications and technology issues, especially when it pertains to broad-based consumer issues. The Energy and Commerce Committee also has its own oversight and investigative subcommittee.

“It’s the same thing we do with any bill. People go to the jurisdiction. E&C has the jurisdiction over these things, so that’s why it went to E&C,” McCarthy said Wednesday, a position that was echoed by Oversight Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE (R-S.C.).

Asked if he personally made the decision for Dorsey to appear before Energy and Commerce, McCarthy replied, “No, it’s not my call.”

Both panels had aggressively fought to get Dorsey to appear before their committees so they could grill him on allegations of conservative bias on social media. Both invited Dorsey to testify.

Freedom Caucus members say McCarthy played a pivotal role in convincing Twitter and Dorsey to choose the Energy and Commerce Committee over the Oversight committee.

McCarthy sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenTrump draws ire after retreat on drug prices pledge FCC votes to bar use of its funds to purchase Huawei, ZTE equipment Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills MORE (R-Ore.) in August calling for him to invite Dorsey to a hearing.

“I would like to request a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so that the American people can learn more about the filtering and censorship practices on his platform," McCarthy wrote.

Conservatives say McCarthy could and should have done more to get Dorsey to go before Oversight.

A leadership aide said it’s not up to leadership to dictate to private or public companies which committees — or how many — they should appear before.

Some conservatives believe maneuvering for future leadership fights played a role.

Jordan  — who says he has been directly targeted by Twitter’s anti-conservative bias — also is challenging McCarthy for the Speaker’s gavel. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDuncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard MORE (R-Wis.), who is backing McCarthy, plans to retire from Congress in January.

Denying the Oversight panel a chance to take a crack at Dorsey undercuts Jordan, his allies believe.

“It kind of seems like McCarthy doesn’t want to elevate Jordan,” said one conservative senior GOP aide.

But two other potential McCarthy rivals — Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial MORE (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersIsraeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering MORE (R-Wash.) — sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee and will get a chance to question Dorsey on Wednesday afternoon, when he appears before the panel. So will conservatives like Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill Director of National Intelligence Maguire should stand for the whistleblower MORE (R-Tenn.), who is running for Senate, and Reps. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLongtime GOP aide to launch lobbying shop Katie Hill resignation reignites push for federal 'revenge porn' law Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement MORE (R-Texas), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Overnight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Six Republicans named to House climate panel MORE (R-Va.) and Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHouse Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe MORE (R-S.C.) — all three of whom are Freedom Caucus members.

McCarthy, once a darling of Silicon Valley, has been aggressively leading the GOP charge against tech companies, one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE’s new favorite punching bags. The majority leader, who is close to Trump, has tweeted over a dozen times last month to “stop the bias,” referring to what critics say is a pattern of censoring conservative voices on social media.

His letter to Walden came after Twitter denied in a blog post that it practiced “shadow-banning” — or hiding tweets and profiles of misbehaving Twitter users without removing them from the site — of users based on political leanings.

That controversy started after prominent conservatives aligned with Trump, including Jordan, Gaetz and Meadows failed to appear on Twitter’s auto-populated drop-down search box when users typed in their names.

That’s why Meadows and Jordan, who each chair an Oversight subcommittee, were itching to have Dorsey testify in front of their panel, where he would likely face a tougher grilling.

“There is a real frustration among those of us that were targeted by Twitter that there was not a more inclusive process to allow us to be a part of the questioning of Jack Dorsey,” Meadows told The Hill.

Some Oversight members asked to join Wednesday’s Energy and Commerce hearing, which would have required unanimous consent (UC) from the panel, but were rejected.

“I thought allowing us to be UCed in to participate in the hearing seemed like a very reasonable request that was ultimately denied by the committee,” Meadows said.

The Oversight Committee could subpoena Dorsey to force him to testify, but Jordan said that decision is up to Gowdy as chairman.

“All I know is, we were working to try to get them in front of Mark’s subcommittee and our subcommittee,” Jordan told reporters on Wednesday. “But Dorsey wouldn’t agree.”

Walden said the Energy and Commerce Committee is better equipped than the Oversight panel to handle the issue, because his committee has both oversight authority and the jurisdiction to take legislative steps, if needed.

“OGR is a great committee, but it has very limited legislative ability,” Walden told reporters on Wednesday. “So this is a bigger discussion about, get the facts, build the case, and see where we go legislatively.”

Walden declined to say whether he talked to GOP leadership or members of the Freedom Caucus about Twitter's decision to appear before Energy and Commerce.

“I’m not going to get into that,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on election interference. Dorsey then appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee later in the afternoon on censoring and filtering practices.

-Juliegrace Brufke contributed