Republican House Oversight Committee disbands Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

The Republican-controlled House Oversight and Accountability Committee has disbanded the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which focused on issues including voting rights, freedom of assembly and criminal justice reform policies.

In a committee meeting on Tuesday, Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said this doesn’t mean topics related to these issues can’t be brought before the committee.

“Let me be very clear: any topic that’s not mentioned in the subcommittee jurisdiction is reserved for the full committee,” Comer said. “We can have a committee hearing in this committee on basically anything we want.”

A spokesperson for the panel told The Hill that “Oversight Republicans are realigning subcommittees to ensure the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government and all its agencies. Going forward, subcommittees will now be better equipped to meet our mission, identify problems, and propose meaningful legislative reforms for the American people.”

But Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) is urging the committee to reinstate the subcommittee, saying that the loss of it sends an “unmistakable message to the American people that their civil rights and civil liberties are no longer a priority to the 118th Congress.”

Crockett, a civil rights attorney, said she was appointed to the Oversight Committee on Friday, when she heard the news that the subcommittee had been removed.

In a statement, Crockett called the decision “reckless and cruel.”

“Rather than squandering their authority on investigations of the President’s family, the Chairman and House Republicans should use their authority to conduct oversight and investigate the merciless murders of innocent Americans – mainly Americans who look like me – at the hands of law enforcement,” Crockett said.

“Systemic policing and extremist violence are killing people, devastating our communities, and breaking the hearts of families we took an oath to defend and protect at all costs.”

On Tuesday, Crockett introduced an amendment that would reinstate the subcommittee.

“Especially in a time like this – when across the nation, from small towns to big cities, Americans are crying out against the horrible injustice that was perpetrated against Tyre Nichols and so many others every single day, it is undeniable that the civil rights of the American people are under threat and this committee must do something about it,” Crockett said on Tuesday.

Ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has thrown his support behind Crockett’s amendment.

Invoking the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who was chairman of the Oversight Committee before his death in 2019, Raskin said he feels an “obligation to stand in defense of this subcommittee.”

“Mr. Cummings was always adamant that there are two major purposes for the Oversight Committee and one is to make sure that the laws and programs that Congress adopts actually go to the benefit of the people that they’re intended for and not siphoned off in waste and self enrichment and corruption and other forms of fraud and abuse,” Raskin said.

“But the other purpose is to make sure that the government is always respecting the rights and the freedoms and the civil liberties of the people in the conduct of its operations,” he added.

In previous years, Raskin said, the subcommittee was able to address things in a bipartisan manner, including the war on drugs, the treatment of marijuana, governmental seizures and forfeitures that violated the civil liberties, as well as extremist political violence across the country.

It’s unclear why the subcommittee was removed, or if it will be reinstated at any point.

Updated at 3:18 p.m.

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