- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2023

As the Republican-led 118th House of Representatives was sworn in over the weekend, pundits from both sides of the aisle had similar warnings for the new Congress: Don’t pursue political vendettas. Do the people’s work. Focus on governing in a bipartisan manner.

Republicans won only a small majority, the argument goes, and therefore don’t have the mandate to rule with an iron fist. The American people want Congress to solve issues important to them — inflation, crime and the southern border — and not to get bogged down in divisive, never-ending investigations and oversight.

That’s all very mature and civil. If only the 117th Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, had been held to the same standard. Mrs. Pelosi and the Democrats governed by the same slim majority. Under her guidance, the chamber only grew more political, with false narratives promoted, Republican smear campaigns initiated, and long-standing norms broken.

My advice to Republicans: Be ruthless.

Let’s start with the most obvious of the last Congress’ political ploys: The “House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.” On July 1, 2021, when the panel was formed, House Democrats had already laid the groundwork for the idea that domestic terrorism was one of the top issues plaguing the country. Seven hearings out of four committees focused on the rise of the domestic terror threat; how media disinformation fueled it; how it was funded; and how local and state governments were responding. Then there were two hearings on all of the unanswered questions surrounding the day of the “insurrection.”

During this time, “domestic terrorism” was largely redefined as anyone who harbors “conspiracy theories” about the validity of the 2020 presidential result. The antifa riots of just a year earlier were exempt from the conversation. The House under Mrs. Pelosi made sure to focus on “election deniers” and those spreading “the Big Lie” as the biggest threats to our democracy.

When the Jan. 6 committee convened, Mrs. Pelosi made the unprecedented move of rejecting two of the five nominated Republicans from serving on the panel, instead tapping never-Trumper GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and then declaring the investigation “bipartisan.”

As the hearings played out, it became clear there would be no cross-examination, no presumption of innocence, and no impartial search for truth. Testimony was edited and altered to reach a preconceived conviction.

Questions about Mrs. Pelosi’s failure to protect the Capitol were ignored, as was the FBI’s involvement in the events of Jan. 6 and in the days leading up to it. An ABC News producer was brought in by the committee’s leaders before the midterm elections to enhance the production value of the presentation, as the hearings were aired live on broadcast television. It was nothing more than a staged propaganda attempt to intimidate Republican donors, candidates, consultants and lawyers in the weeks leading up to the midterm election.

The last act of the 117th Congress was as unsurprising as it was unprecedented — four criminal referrals were sent to the Department of Justice against former President Donald Trump, including obstruction, conspiracy and inciting an insurrection, based on “evidence” from the show trials.

But the partisan Jan. 6 inquiry wasn’t the only norm that Mrs. Pelosi’s House broke.

In December, the Ways and Means Committee, still under Democratic control, released Mr. Trump’s tax returns to the public, a move The Wall Street Journal dubbed “a violation of taxpayer privacy with no legislative purpose” and one that could “open an ugly new battlefield in American politics.” The point of the exercise was simply to embarrass the former president.

Spinning lies into truths was a hallmark of the House under Mrs. Pelosi. In early 2021, as Georgia was working to pass an election integrity law, the House embarked on several hearings warning about voter suppression and the “continuing threats to democracy” the bill posed for the country. In the months leading up to the midterms, the House conducted hearings warning about threats and violence directed toward election officials and how this should be a national security issue.

The mainstream media did its part, dubbing Georgia’s election integrity law “Jim Crow 2.0,” running alleged voter suppression stories and airing segments on the potential for Election Day violence.

None of it turned out to be true, of course. Under its new law, more votes were cast in Georgia than in any other midterm election, with record-breaking early voting turnout. Nationwide, there were zero reports of polling place violence. But the Democrats got what they wanted, sowing fear, distrust and discord against the Republican Party.

What should also be mentioned about the 117th Congress was its total lack of real oversight. Of the hundreds of hearings held over two years, not one focused on the origins of COVID-19 in China. Not one really got into the details behind President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Not one focused on the national security and humanitarian implications of the crisis at the border.

Instead, the Democratic-led Oversight and Reform Committee held hearings on reforming cannabis law at the federal level, examining the harm to women from abortion restrictions, whether Big Oil was “fueling the climate crisis,” and the “threat” posed by banning critical race theory and gender rights books in school. Progressive priorities for sure — but issues that could build bipartisan consensus? Hardly.

So for Republicans now in the majority in the 118th Congress, my advice is this: Unabashedly pursue your agenda. Democrats broke the norms, and it’s not up to you to repair them. Take a page from Nancy Pelosi’s playbook and never back down from a political fight.

• Kelly Sadler is the commentary editor at The Washington Times.

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