Efforts to probe the Biden administration on matters relating to the chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan and the crisis at the southern border have been thwarted, Republican staffers told Fox News, due to a March rule that effectively blocked a procedural move known as Resolutions of Inquiry (ROI).
The oversight tool is traditionally utilized by the minority party in Congress to request information from the executive branch.
After the inquiry is filed it is sent to the relevant committee, which has 14 days to respond. If the committee fails to address the inquiry it is then sent to the House floor as a “privileged resolution” – a move that was first obstructed under the previous administration.
In March 2020, Congress prevented ROI’s from becoming privileged resolutions in an attempt to keep business off the House floor during the pandemic.
One year later, Democrats extended the rule through April 2021.
But Republicans are now crying foul as the provision has been repeatedly amended – pushing the new deadline through Oct. 27 with no indication that the committee will reverse the rule when that time comes.
“Although Democrats claim that turning off the use of resolutions of inquiry is related to available floor time, it is really a move to shield the Biden Administration from answering legitimate questions about its abject failures and missteps,” Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told Fox News.
“When House Democrats were in the minority during the 115th Congress, they had no qualms about using resolutions of inquiry to demand information from the Trump administration,” he added. “Considering that committees have proven they are capable of handling a normal workload amid the pandemic, they should certainly restore one of the few tools the Minority has to get factual information from an administration.”
GOP members on the Rules Committee pointed to the consistent use of ROI’s by Democrats under the Trump administration, including 18 ROI’s submitted during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency when House Democrats held the Minority.
During a Rules Committee hearing Tuesday, GOP Texas Rep. Michael Burgess urged the “majority to restore minority rights.”
“We can’t get phone calls answered from the administrative state. It’s not right and it needs to change,” he said to his Democratic colleagues. “Congress must be able to conduct oversight to prevent abuse.”
Fox News could not immediately reach the administration for comment on the congressman’s claims.
Despite attempted challenges by GOP Rules Committee members, the ambiguous provision was unclear to Republican staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In an attempt to find clarification on unanswered questions relating to the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, committee staffers were preparing to file an ROI in late August before learning their attempt would be futile.
“Democratic leadership has suspended a centuries-old House rule that allows for more congressional oversight – all to protect President Biden from scrutiny for the multiple disasters his failed leadership has caused,” Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told Fox News. “The Majority needs to lift this indefinite ban on resolutions of inquiry and allow for vigorous oversight.”
But while Republicans on the Hill believe the rule has been used as a tool to protect the president, a congressional spokesperson familiar with the matter told Fox News it is a response to GOP attempts to foil procedural issues.
Once a ROI passes through committee to the House floor as a “privileged resolution” it takes precedence over other floor matters – a strategy that could be used to derail top Democratic issues.
“Republicans have consistently tried to disrupt the House Floor, demanding votes even on noncontroversial bills that they support,” a spokesman told Fox News. “Now, they are demanding even more tools to derail the work of Congressional committees.”
Fox News could not immediately reach House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., for comment on where he stands in allowing members of Congress to once again gain access to executive information through ROI’s.
Meeks, who led hearings last week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to evaluate the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, is expected to hold more hearings on the subject.
“Committees of jurisdictions are fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the situation in Afghanistan and there are regular bipartisan briefings,” a congressional spokesman told Fox News. “The House is also voting this week on a series of bipartisan amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act regarding Afghanistan.
“We are staying focused on allowing committees to do their work and passing legislation to provide for the American people,” the spokesman added.
But it appears unlikely testimony will be enough to placate lawmakers evaluating the administration’s actions in pulling out of Afghanistan – a process the president described as “messy” and which resulted in the death of 13 service members.