Two Texas lawmakers, both progressive Democrats, were appointed to the House Oversight Committee in D.C. this year in what could prove to be a contentious assignment.
The committee is under Republican control and is expected to launch a number of probes into the Biden family, among other hot-button issues.
Jasmine Crockett, a former representative in the Texas House who now represents a Dallas-area district in Congress, was appointed to the committee by Democratic leaders. She’s joined by Greg Casar, who made his name as a left wing city council member in Austin.
Jonathan Tilove, longtime political reporter for Texas Monthly, sat down with the two representatives and joined Texas Standard to share what he learned. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What do you think is the strategy behind appointing two first-time progressive representatives to the oversight committee? What does the Democratic Party gain from this decision?
Jonathan Tilove: Well, they’re two of eight new freshmen who are on a committee with 21 Democrats and 26 Republicans. And what they gain is aggressive energy and kind of trolling firepower. I mean, they are up against a committee that is jampacked with sort of either famous or notorious Republican members – including Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, [Lauren] Boebert and [Andy] Biggs. And so I think what Democrats were looking at is there’s not going to be a lot of policymaking in this session because Republicans narrowly have control of the House.
So really, nothing’s going to be done on the policy committees and so all the action is going to be on these investigative committees and, foremost among them, this committee that they’ve been named to. And I think Hakeem Jeffries making the appointment, the idea here being that you want sort of people to not let anything go unchallenged to be articulate and you want to be media-savvy. And I think they, in both Casar and Jasmine Crockett, they are capable and bright and articulate members. And, you know, they’ve both gotten off to a fast start because they both have established some leadership positions in the House, as well.
You know, these are not quiet backbenchers that they’ve appointed to the committee.
No, no. And that’s exactly the point.
Well, you sat down and talked with Crockett and Casar. What did they tell you about their priorities this session? Especially when it comes to the oversight committee, I don’t reckon they would have too much leverage at this juncture.
No, and, you know, I think this may have come on them kind of suddenly. I think that Casar clearly wanted to serve on what was called the Education and Labor Committee, but now under Republicans, it’s called Education and Workforce because they consider “labor” to be a Marxist term. But he wanted to serve there. He said his ambition was to be the most pro-labor member of Congress, period.
And Crockett, who’s an attorney and has done some civil rights work and is interested in voting rights, she wanted to be on Judiciary. But when they got here, I think they were informed and I think they warmed to the idea that that’s not going to be where the action is at and that they were needed on this committee. And I think their ambition there is only to push back against and try to derail Republican investigations and to offer alternative scenarios and an alternative read on all the things that the Republicans are going to be trying to make as a case against Biden – essentially to undermine Biden’s chances for reelection.
So I don’t know. They’re going to be playing defense. There’s no real possibility that they’re going to be able to initiate any investigations that they’d be interested in. It’s strictly a matter of combat.