Oversight Republicans threaten to boycott Democrats’ virtual committee proceedings being conducted in violation of rules and procedures

Published: May 27, 2020

After months of seeing the people’s business hindered and minority party rights violated by virtual proceedings, Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform informed Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney that — if she does not start conducting official Committee business by House rules — they will be forced to consider a boycott of future proceedings.

In a letter to Maloney, the Members explained that, since Congress recessed on March 16, the Committee has held several different remote or virtual briefings that have evolved over time into quasi-hearings that run roughshod over the rights of the minority and have been plagued by numerous technical problems embarrassing the serious work of the Committee.

If Democrats’ one-sided pseudo-hearings do not cease and if Chairwoman Maloney does bring Committee business in line with House rules and guidelines, the letter concludes, “the Republican Members will be forced to consider abstaining from these violative proceedings.”

Other highlights from the letter:

“To fulfill its constitutional role, the House and its committees must engage in debates, votes, and other proceedings in person. The Speaker’s actions and the resolution she promoted are regrettable departures from that proud history. Beyond the unprecedented nature of operating the House in this manner, it is unworkable from a day to day perspective.”

“For very good and established reasons, the House Rules previously in effect had clear requirements for Committee hearings and official meetings, including the presence of quorums, prohibition of proxy voting, public openness, and proper notice of official business. In addition, the House Rules required each committee to engage in robust record-keeping. By holding remote unofficial briefings … the Democrats have essentially circumvented these rules and Minority protections.”

“Aside from the serious procedural issues, the remote briefings held since March 20, 2020 have also presented technical problems which clearly demonstrate the need for Committee business to be conducted in person. During one of these quasi-hearings on April 3, 2020, it took nearly 20 minutes to get the briefing underway since every participant had to be vetted to engage in the event … On May 21, 2020, during a remote quasi-hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, one of the briefers lost audio for several minutes, but thankfully was able to deliver her remarks—remarks that would have been seen by all Americans had we been working in person, in Washington.”

Read the full text of the letter here.

Background:

For weeks, Chairwoman Maloney has insisted on holding fake quasi-hearings that do not adhere to House rules instead of convening the committee to do business in person. Despite Democrats’ passage of new House rules for remote committee proceedings last week, Chairwoman Maloney has yet to implement them for committee business.

Earlier this month, the Ranking Members of 22 House committees sent a letter to Democrat leadership voicing their concerns about the potential abuse of minority rights under remote committee proceedings.

The Republican members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis have already demonstrated that it is possible to safely conduct committee business in person, as have the other House committees which have met since March 16.

At Monday’s pseudo-hearing, Ranking Member Jim Jordan urged Maloney to hold real hearings in person and criticized Democrats for picking and choosing which parliamentary rules they want to apply to remote proceedings:

There is a real frustration level, Madam Chairwoman, about these hearings we are doing. this so-called briefing should be an in-person hearing to provide real transparency in the work of Congress … We should be meeting in person and holding hearings pursuant to the House rules that have always guided us.  But if Speaker Pelosi refuses to return to work, then at the very least we should follow the rules that the Majority passed in the House just a week ago to ago hold hearings – at least those make an attempt to uphold the rights of all Members on the committee.