WASHINGTON (AP) — In early 2017, freshman Rep. James Comer found himself aboard Air Force One with two of the most powerful Republicans in the country, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As they returned to Washington from a rally in Kentucky, the conversation turned to the president’s first legislative push, with McConnell encouraging Trump to pursue an infrastructure deal.
But Trump and House GOP leaders opted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in vainComer argues that it was a mistake that cost his party years — a mistake that serves as a lesson for him now that he heads the powerful House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
“Let’s work on things that are achievable, not just red-meat talking points that keep you on Fox News for 4.5 minutes,” Comer told The Associated Press in a March interview, when Republicans struggling to regain control inside this house.
Those noble words will soon be tested.
Comer, the grandson of Kentucky’s rural political leader, will lead a committee made up of the most hard-line conservatives in Congress. Some have proposed articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden, promising far-reaching investigations into his administration and family, especially his son Hunter.
Comer also called for a robust investigation, on the difficult road ahead of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s election as House speaker.Arguing that the lengthy process — 15 ballots in a few days — only delayed the start of this much-needed work.
Yes, Comer lands on Fox News regularly.
Often called Jamie, the 50-year-old speaks with a thick Appalachian drawl that is little known across the country. Comer, described by members of both parties as steady and approachable, came to power in a decidedly partisan environment, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and facing Democratic control in the Senate.
Comer, who was first elected to public office at age 27, promised to fight waste, fraud and abuse in government. But he’s up against committee members who are utterly loyal to Trump and want him back in the White House. Some, sticking to baseless allegations that Trump beat Biden in 2020, seem more interested in attention than in any legislative outcome.
“I think we have an important job, and I think it’s important to be realistic,” Comer said in an interview with The Associated Press last week. “I think it’s important for the future of congressional investigations because at this point in time, congressional investigations don’t have a lot of credibility because they’re so partisan.”
The former state lawmaker arrives in Congress after losing the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2015just 83 votes behind Tea Party-backed rival Matt Bevan.
A few days before the primary, a former college girlfriend outlined several abuse allegations against Comer in an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Comer, who admitted dating the woman, denies abusing hersaid at the time that domestic violence crimes “make me sick.”
He came to Washington with a mission, working his way up the ranks from the backbench on the committee he now leads. In the previous Congress, he became the top Republican on a committee led by the then-Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y.
Maloney, who lost to Rep. Jerry Nadler in the Democratic primary last year, said she has a good working relationship with Comer. “He’s a partisan fighter, but it makes sense,” she said in an interview. “And we did co-author several bills that would help the country.”
Asked if she thought Comer would be able to lead the committee in a divided Washington, Maloney said: “I think you’ll find out soon. To me, he’s a no-nonsense lawmaker.”
The ultra-conservative firebrand and loyal Trump ally who was appointed to the Comer committee last week Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Paul Gosar of Arizona. Their addition is expected to further complicate the chairman’s ability to keep the committee from going over the edge.
“I think Kevin McCarthy is in some kind of a squeeze by bowing to all the demands of the extreme right in order to amass his slim majority and then putting so many extremist members on the oversight board. game,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the committee’s Democratic leader.
“And I know that he will need to use all the political tricks to combine careful oversight with the demands of an often fanatical and unreasonable group of members.”
Green introduced the article on Biden’s impeachment on his first day in office, promising to continue the effort once he’s in the committee.
“Joe Biden, get ready. We’re going to expose every corrupt business dealing, every foreign entanglement, every abuse of power, and every check cut of a big shot,” Green said in a statement last week.
The White House responded this week by saying that Comer was “setting the stage for political stunts out of touch with reality.”
Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s office, said in a statement that the chairman “has stated his goal is to ensure the committee’s work is ‘credible,’ but Republicans are handing over key oversight oversight To the most extreme MAGA members” Republican caucus promoting violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories. ”
It’s an acronym for Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and has since been used to describe his policies and supporters.
Comer said he had made it clear to those members that their mandate was real: “I said, ‘We’ll look into anything, but unless we can back it up with facts, it’s not going to be on the oversight stationery.'”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who returns to the committee this session, said he has full confidence in Comer’s ability to steer the committee. “He was interested in facts and details,” Donalds said. “He’s not looking for news cameras or anything like that. He just wants to get the job done.”
New committee member Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Michigan, said Comer would bring a level of “thoughtfulness” to “a very hot committee.”
One of the GOP’s main targets will be the Biden familyspecifically the business dealings between Hunter Biden and the president’s younger brother, James Biden.
Republicans now have subpoena power in the House, giving them the power to compel testimony and conduct more aggressive investigations. Republican operatives have spent the past year analyzing information and financial transactions found on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden. Comer said the evidence they gathered was “overwhelming, but gave no specifics.
Hunter Biden’s tax, foreign work work already under federal investigation Tried by a federal grand jury in Delaware. The young Biden never served in a presidential campaign or the White House. But his board membership of a Ukrainian energy company and his efforts to strike deals in China have long raised questions about whether he took advantage of his father’s public service.
Joe Biden has said he never talked to his son about foreign business. There is no indication that the federal investigation involves the president.
Comer promised not to hold hearings on the Biden family until the committee had evidence to support any allegations of alleged wrongdoing. He also acknowledged that the stakes were high as long as the investigation focused on party leaders.
“I just feel like, for better or for worse, we’re going to be judged differently than Adam Schiff,” Comer said. .”
Associated Press Writer Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Ky., contributed to this report.