Rep. James Comer, R-Tomkinsville, who represents Kentucky’s sprawling 1st congressional district, became chairman of the high-profile House Oversight and Accountability Committee in January after Republicans took control of that chamber. It’s a position that often generates national attention.

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. James Comer previously served as Ranking Member of the Oversight Committee from June 2020 to Dec. 2022

  • With Republicans gaining control of the House this term, Comer now gets to set the agenda for the committee

  • Comer looks ahead at the committee’s goals, which includes investigating what Republicans refer to as “Biden Family Influence Peddling”

“The Oversight Committee has, for a few presidencies now, kind of been a steppingstone to the national spotlight mostly because you’re doing highly controversial, partisan investigations,” explained Casey Burgat with the legislative affairs program at George Washington University. “You’re bringing in big witnesses, names that people have heard of.” 

After serving as ranking member on the same committee for nearly two years while his party was in the minority, Comer is receiving a lot of national press with this new chairmanship. He turns up frequently now on evening news shows, as a featured speaker at conservative gatherings, like CPAC, and other Washington events.

He was recently asked to headline a program at the National Press Club in Washington where he took questions from those in attendance. 

“I feel like we are two years behind on oversight,” Comer told the crowd. “So we are going to have to go back two years and try and get caught up.”

Comer said that not enough oversight took place when Democrats were in control of the House, the Senate and the White House. The nonpartisan Lugar Center gave last term’s Democratic-led Oversight Committee a failing grade.

The Oversight Committee has already held hearings on issues important to Republicans, including the Biden administration’s border policies and Twitter’s brief suppression of a story during the 2020 presidential campaign about Hunter Biden’s laptop. That specific hearing took place the morning after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Spectrum News asked Comer if the timing of that hearing focused on the Hunter Biden laptop story was strategic. 

“We’re getting started and we’re hitting the ground running,” Comer said. “That’s one of the areas where we’re going to focus our investigative efforts.” 

As chairman, Comer gets to set the agenda, and has said that what Republicans refer to as “Biden family influence peddling” is a “top five” area of focus.

“They [Republicans] don’t have the Senate and the White House to pass legislation, but what they can do with a simple majority in the House of Representatives is investigate,” explained Burgat. “This is what they think is one of the most fruitful lines of investigation to paint the president, his family and, by extension, Democrats as corrupt or incompetent.”  

“We’re concerned about COVID spending, we’re concerned about the debacle at the southern border, we want to know exactly how much equipment was left behind in Afghanistan,” Comer said as he outlined his committee’s goals.

“Some Democrats would say, ‘well, what about Kushner and Ivanka had some deals in China,’ and things like that,” Comer said in an interview with Spectrum News. “It’s a problem. Democrats should agree.”

“If we don’t determine what is legal and what is not and at the very least increase the disclosure laws with immediate family members with their foreign dealings, then we are going to continue to have a problem whoever the next president is,” Comer said.

Republicans, including the longest-serving member in the House of Representatives, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, have praised Comer’s performance in this role.

“He’s an excellent spokesman,” Rogers told Spectrum News. “He is smart and savvy and he’s tough.” 

Democrats who serve on Comer’s committee see it differently and are criticizing the topics he’s choosing to focus on as chairman.

“It’s not about solutions unfortunately,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla. “The Republicans on that committee are using it to litigate things that I believe most Americans don’t care about.”

“We don’t need to be holding hearings on tweets and, you know, the private citizen children of a president. We need to be holding hearings around abortion rights, around voting rights, around the cost-of-living crisis,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

There were some controversial new GOP members added to Comer’s committee this term, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), and several of the Republican holdouts who voted against Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) for House Speaker. Many believe their appointments to the Oversight team were part of McCarthy’s concessions to get elected. Comer referred to the Republican members as an “all-star lineup.”