Fair play isn’t James Comer’s idea of a good idea; shouldn’t we hold everyone accountable? Skip to content

Fair play isn’t James Comer’s idea of a good idea; shouldn’t we hold everyone accountable?

If Repubs take the House in 2022, our own Jamie Comer will be the chair of the oversight committee. Think he’ll be fair-handed with that? Think again, says Bill Straub.

6 min read
Jamie Comer at Fancy Farm
Jamie Comer at Fancy Farm (photo by Berry Craig)

Congressional Republicans, disregarding the advice of the late Kenny Rogers, are counting their money at the table, smug and confident with the prospect of assuming control of the House next year, providing them with yet another opportunity to do what they do best – cause mischief while providing few results.

It is, in fact, about the only thing the modern GOP appears capable of since it has abandoned all intent to actually govern. Discussion already is underway about the prospect of impeaching President Biden for the high crime and misdemeanor of being a Democrat. If and when they proceed it will be simply because they can.

And that, friends, is the result of a party being led around by the nose by one Donald J. Trump. Lord help us all.

The idea of a Republican takeover isn’t far-fetched. Redistricting is underway with a start and stop in the 50 states and most legislatures are under the GOP control, opening the spigot to a gerrymandering tour de force. (To be fair, Democratic states like Maryland and Illinois are also participating in the big blowout, proving that the Supreme Court was wrong to uphold the disgraceful process and that it needs to be outlawed).

Republican lawmakers in many states, mostly in the south, have also been industrious in making sure that people they don’t want to see show up on Election Day (you know, Black folks, they vote for Democrats) have their access restricted. All in all, it appears the GOP could gain substantially more than the five seats it needs to assume the majority less than a year from now.

And they are poised to cause trouble. Just ask Rep. James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), the Monroe County farmer who now serves as ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, an investigative panel with the authority to look into a wide range of government matters, including executive branch initiatives.

The committee chairman is one of only three in the House with the authority to issue subpoenas without a committee vote or in consultation with the ranking member. Should Republicans assume control and everything goes according to Hoyle, Comer will assume the chair and immediately become one of the most powerful members in the lower chamber.

Comer apparently intends to employ that subpoena power with great rigor. Assuming a Jimmy Cagney tough-guy persona in an interview with Business Insider, Comer warned that “No government agency will want to receive a letter from us,” referring to the committee.

They’re quaking in their boots, no doubt.

“Everyone’s frustrated with the Biden administration,” Comer told Insider, taking an expansive view of the word everyone. “What they see in Congress now is absolutely no oversight to the Biden administration. Like who was held accountable for Afghanistan? Who’s held accountable for the lack of border security? No one. Someone needs to hold them accountable and provide oversight, and we’re going to do that.”

Holding Biden to account is a commendable goal. In fact, every administration, Republican or Democratic, should be held responsible for its actions. It’s a reasonable endeavor, although the subjects of Comer’s curiosity seem directed more toward embarrassing Democrats rather than coming to grips with the truth. He and others keep citing the Afghanistan withdrawal, which got off to an unquestionably rocky start, yet managed to evacuate 123,000 Americans and various allies from that quagmire in a matter of days, finally ending U.S. involvement.

And while border security has been a problem for years, it’s not like the Biden administration is sitting on its hands. The number of “encounters’’ with undocumented individuals along the southwest border during the 2021 fiscal year reached more than 1.7 million, triple such encounters during Trump’s final fiscal year in office. They’ve been busy keeping people out and the number of those undocumented crossing the border is, records show, declining.

Regardless, go ahead and investigate if it gives you a giggle. The information would be worth knowing and, most of all, it’ll give you something to do.

But then Comer should explain why, if he is committed to oversight of the executive branch, regardless of whether the president is a Democrat or Republican, he opposed a special, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt at the Capitol.

Comer should explain why, if he is committed to oversight of the executive branch, he opposed a special, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt at the Capitol.

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Briefly, because the facts are well known, Trump supporters staged a riot on Jan. 6, hoping to convince the House and the Senate to reject the Electoral College results that showed Biden defeating Trump in his re-election bid. The insurgents proceeded, it’s pretty clear, at Trump’s urging.

When it came time to create an investigatory panel, only 25 House Republicans supported the effort. Jamie was not among them. He said at the time that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had “politicized’’ the riot instead of “seeking to examine the facts in a bipartisan fashion.”

Which is, of course, baloney. The final constitution of the proposed commission was worked out between Pelosi and the hand-picked agent of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California – Rep. John Katko, R-NY. There was to be an equal number of Democrats and Republicans empaneled. Ironically, McCarthy, like Comer, opposed the final Pelosi-Katko product after Trump, who maintains complete control over the political organization once known as the Republican Party, voiced his objection.

The package passed the House but fell apart in the Senate where McConnell reverted to his usual amoral, party-before-country self and killed it.

So much for oversight. Comer is a Trump acolyte or, if you prefer, a Trump tool. He is about as likely to mount a probe of Trump, or any other Republican for that matter, as the Jacksonville Jaguars are of winning the Super Bowl. There is no reason to expect fair play from this guy.

Comer, should he ascend to the chair, also made it clear he intends to pummel Biden cabinet secretaries early and often for sins both real and imagined, telling Business Insider, “We’ve got problems with just about every one of them with respect to oversight.”

Comer further said the biggest critical issue he wants to address is that nefarious danger to American democracy, the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who, it is fair to say, has had his troubles.

Republicans have consistently trashed Hunter Biden, who has had drug problems, for his ties to China through an investment company he formed, BHR Partners. He also served on the board of Burisma Holding, a natural gas producer in Ukraine, a position that led Trump to claim, without evidence, that both Hunter and President Biden were involved in corrupt practices.

In fact, Trump was impeached, but not convicted, for urging the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens’ activities. Comer, of course, is enthusiastic about a Hunter Biden investigation, but he was never motivated to look into Trump siccing a foreign leader on a political foe.

So, now it’s about Hunter Biden’s artistic endeavors. His paintings reportedly draw between $75,000 and $500,000. I’ve gotten a gander at some of his productions and, frankly, Picasso has nothing to worry about. Not my style and I wouldn’t spend 75 cents on any of it.

But an art critic I am not. Some folks seem to like it and now Comer and others fear some of his works are being purchased by those who wish to curry favor with the administration, although there’s no reason to believe the president knows who’s buying the stuff, which it seems would make it difficult to peddle influence for anyone.

“Hunter Biden is at the top of the list,” Comer told Business Insider recently. “All I want to know is who bought that original art. And that’s not being nosy; that’s based upon a pattern of bad behavior for Hunter Biden.”

If only Jamie had been concerned about the activities of the prior White House occupant, about how he opposed moving FBI headquarters out of downtown DC because the property might be purchased for construction of a hotel that would compete with his own property a short distance away. Or his many other business dealings while he was in the White House. Or getting the federal government to pay him a small fortune for consistently staying at Mar-a-Lago, a place he owned. Or the hush money he paid a porn star to keep mum about their sexual encounter.

We could go on with this, but you get the picture. Fair play obviously is not Comer’s style, as we’ll find if he wields the committee hammer.

It could be that the only thing that might stop Rep. James Comer is if he decides to run for governor.

Talk about the devil and the deep, blue sea.


Written by Bill Straub. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Bill Straub

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics.

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