- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee vowed Tuesday to shut down the Democrat-led panel’s investigation into the NFL and the Washington Commanders if Republicans take control of the House in the upcoming midterm elections. 

Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, told The Washington Times that investigating the “Washington Redskins” won’t be a priority for the party, adding the committee’s focus will shift to “providing oversight” of the Biden administration. 

The declaration, while expected, comes as Commanders owner Dan Snyder and lawmakers clash over the acceptance of the service of a subpoena and whether the embattled billionaire will testify at a deposition. 

Comer’s comments also underscore the timeline in which the Oversight Committee’s probe may need to conclude as the elections will be held in November.

“I don’t really care what Dan Snyder’s opinion is,” Comer said. “I want the American people to know that this is a waste of their tax dollars and this isn’t something that is going to be a priority for the Republicans. … The Washington Redskins is not a priority for Republicans on the Oversight Committee.” 

Comer acknowledged that if the Democrats become the minority, the party on the committee can still use their staff resources to hold their own probe of the NFL and the Commanders. But the investigation will lack the power that Democrats currently hold in the majority, including the crucial ability to issue subpoenas and schedule hearings. 

If Comer becomes chairman of the committee, he’ll have the power to set the committee’s agenda. 

A spokesperson for the House Oversight and Reform Committee said the panel had no comment on Comer’s remarks. A spokesperson for Mr. Snyder declined to comment. 

Democrats and Republicans on the committee have sparred for months over the panel’s authority. Republicans like Comer have argued that it’s inappropriate to investigate a private company, while Democrats like Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi have said the committee is an examining an industry at large. 

The Oversight Committee began looking into the NFL and the Commanders last fall amid renewed scrutiny from the public over the league’s decision to not release a written report of Washington’s workplace misconduct. At least 40 women said they witnessed or experienced sexual harassment while working for the Commanders, leading the NFL to slap the team with a $10 million fine. 

“It’s a preposterous argument,” Krishnamoorthi told reporters last week, regarding Republicans’ criticism. “We obviously have oversight of every work environment in the United States. The legislative purpose here is to prevent a similar toxic environment from happening elsewhere. … We’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Comer argued the committee’s job is to “determine waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government,” adding that’s what Republicans would be focused on if they take control of the House. 

Asked about the former Washington employees who want to see something substantial come out of the committee’s investigation, Comer reiterated that Congress “is not the appropriate venue” for any victim facing harassment or discrimination. “The judicial branch is where these people need to go,” he said. 

In the meantime, the Oversight Committee’s probe into the Commanders will continue. 

So far, the committee’s investigation has surfaced previously unknown allegations of sexual and financial misconduct involving Snyder and the Commanders. The owner and the team have strongly denied the allegations, though the claims led to new inquiries from the NFL and attorneys’ general from the District and Virginia. New legislation has also been introduced stemming from the committee’s probe of the Commanders’ workplace.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York Democrat who chairs the committee, announced her intent at a hearing last week to issue a subpoena for Snyder to testify at a deposition eyed for this week. 

Since then, the two sides have been unable to come to a resolution. Snyder’s lawyer informed the committee that the owner would be “unavailable” for a deposition as she and the owner are out of the country. The attorney said she wasn’t authorized to accept the service of the subpoena, drawing a sharp response from the committee on Monday.

But with midterms in just a few months, the clock is ticking. 

“The Democrats know that the outcome of the midterm elections is not favorable for them,” Comer said. “Whether it’s the Washington Football Team investigation or whatever investigation they have against any of the oil CEOs, they should probably focus on wrapping it up before Dec. 31.” 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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