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House Republicans Focus on Border Crisis, IRS Funding, More with New Majority

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters as he walks to the House floor from the Speakers Office, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin | AP
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters as he walks to the House floor from the Speakers Office, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

Now that U.S. House Republicans have a leader in Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., they are turning their eyes toward an agenda with investigations and a few key legislative goals.

McCarthy gave a window into those plans during his acceptance speech over the weekend, taking aim at the border crisis, IRS funding and education. The new Republicans' rules package included a promise to vote on those issues as well as abortion and others as part of the deal that got McCarthy the needed Speaker votes over the weekend.

“This is what we’ve been fighting for,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of McCarthy’s most vocal opponents, wrote on Twitter, referring to the rules package.

While the Republican holdouts will see some rules changes because of their resistance, they are still a small minority in the House and will likely be unable to steer the legislative ship.

One of the items that does seem most promising for broader support is the push to undo President Joe Biden's aggressive expansion of the IRS, a move that sparked controversy as Biden promised to partially pay for his rash of recent spending by auditing more Americans.

"According to CBO, Democrats’ supercharged IRS will cause audit rates to 'rise for all taxpayers' and a conservative analysis shows that returning audit rates to 2010 levels would mean 1.2 million more audits with over 700,000 of those falling on taxpayers making $75,000 or less," the Republican press office for House Ways and Means said in a statement.

Other tax items that could see legislative action are a bill to make the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent, a vote to repeal the inflation tax on capital gains as well as the 1099-K IRS paperwork provision.

With a divided Senate and a Democratic president, though, Republicans will have trouble pushing through any conservative legislation. What they can do and have made clear they will focus on are using their investigatory powers to unearth more information on a string of controversies in recent years.

After taking the majority in November, House Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees were quick to announce their plans to investigate Hunter Biden, the president's son.

Lawmakers at a news conference argued that Hunter Biden in particular used his father’s influence to negotiate business deals overseas that may have used federal resources and even compromised the Biden family.

“Evidence obtained by Committee Republicans reveals Joe Biden lied to the American people about his involvement in his family’s business schemes,” said House Oversight Committee Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky. “The Biden family business model is built on Joe Biden’s political career and connections with Joe Biden as the ‘chairman of the board.’ Biden family members sold access for profit around the world to the detriment of American interests. If President Biden is compromised by deals with foreign adversaries and they are impacting his decision making, this is a threat to national security.”

House Republicans have also put Big Tech in their sight, as a string of news reports have shown that the White House, federal law enforcement, and tech companies have apparently worked together for years to censor Americans on a range of issues, most notably COVID-19. House Oversight Republicans recently sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter on that very issue demanding more information.

“Committee Republicans continue to investigate whether U.S. government officials have participated in suppression and censorship of lawful speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” the letter said. “Reports continue to surface that social media companies acted on behest of government agencies and officials when removing, restricting, or disclaiming content. The American people and their elected representatives must know the extent to which their government has engaged in prohibited censorship to expose and prevent this unlawful conduct.”

Despite these ambitions, this legislative term is effectively shorter than most. Soon, it will be a presidential election year. Both parties will become focused on campaigning and fundraising, which means legislating will largely take a back seat. Committee investigations, though, could be used to push for media attention.

"Aside from the House's policy agenda, conservatives will have new opportunities to carry out the much-needed oversight investigations into the administration's incompetence at the southern border, the origins of COVID-19, Hunter Biden's laptop and shady business dealings, and the Big Tech censorship of these stories," said Heritage Action Executive Director Jessica Anderson. "These investigations need to both expose the truth and follow through with accountability measures."

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