With colleagues like Marjorie Taylor Greene, what can Democrats do about oversight? (2023)

Both Congressional Democrats and Republicans have already finalized lists of members who will serve on these congressional committees, and that includes the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Representative James Comer, the top Republican on the committee, has already pledged that "probably the most exciting committee' in the history of Congress, and despite the fact that he recently tried to clean up the airexactly what the committee is empowered to do, plans to deliver on its promises during the mid-term campaign cycle to lead a wave ofInvestigations into the Biden Administration, apresident's family, and a variety of conservative red meat cultural issues, such as the cancellation ofNewsmax and DirecTV.

The Democrats on this committee are led by Representative Jamie Raskin, a top House manager in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, and are backed by an all-star roster of House Democrats, includingeight new members.

Among them: 45 years Representative Robert Garcia of California, president of the freshman Democratic class serving as the first gay immigrant in Congress. Garcia, former mayor of Long Beach, California, a city south of Los Angeles, has already taken up the mantle of the House Freedom Caucus Horsefly:mockingsome of the most visible figures on the right, such as Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, for his conspiratorial thinking on issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the vaccine. It's a personal matter for Garcia, whose mother and stepfather died of complications from Covid in 2020.

He and his first-term colleagues intend to hold these Republican investigators accountable, according to thenew Democrat strategy to go after its republican inquisitors.

With colleagues like Marjorie Taylor Greene, what can Democrats do about oversight? (1) Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

I caught up with Garcia on Friday, when he told me he was ready to "own his shit" and challenge whatever narrative the new committee is trying to weave. Our conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.

christian peace

So you've got your assignments done and you're sitting down in front of some of the most colorful,conspiratorand controversial Republican Congressman. What behavior do you expect from these bodies and how do you think it is perceived from the outside?

received Roberto Garcia

Well, sure, Kevin McCarthy put the most extreme members of his group into Overwatch. We have people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Paul Gosar. These are QAnon-aligned people attacking vaccines obsessed with Hunter Biden's laptop and the president. That is why it is important that we are ready every day to present ourselves, to defend ourselves with facts, to defend ourselves with all the energy possible. And we are. I look forward to challenging people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, admitting their bullshit, admitting their lies, and making sure there are strong voices on our side that really press the facts.

christian peace

Because he will serve on the Oversight Committee along with some of the most prominent members of the Freedom Caucus. Representative James Comer, the chairman, said he expects it to be one of the most exciting committees in the history of Congress. And you'll also have a high-profile cast of Democrats on that committee:Maxwell-Frost, Dan Goldman, Summer Lee, Jamie Raskin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Have you talked to your peers about what you're trying to prioritize and what narratives you're trying to establish or change?

receive garcia

Well, I'm really excited about the freshmen that are on the committee. I've spoken with Maxwell [Frost of Florida], Dan [Goldman of New York] and Summer [Lee of Pennsylvania] and I think we're all looking forward to facing the lies and the extremists on the other side. People like Marjorie Taylor Greene have a giant megaphone that they use to hurt people. See what they say about vaccines, for example. It's disgraceful that they are harming Americans across the country and they are going to use this committee to gather the science, the facts and the truth, so it will be our job to speak out. I think we're ready for this.

With the freshmen on this committee and the committee as a whole, it's exciting. To be able to be on a committee with people like Katie Porter and AOC and Jamie Raskin and then freshmen, we'll be really prepared.

christian peace

Some of these issues (Covid, immigration) are also very personal, aren't they? They impacted your life and you have a connection with them. So I'm wondering how he thinks about how to deal with these issues and what he's specifically concerned about and what he expects from Republicans.

receive garcia

President Comer has indicated that the first hearing on the pandemic will and will take place [this week]. The point is, they will use these hearings to try to dismantle support for pandemic prevention and attack the way the government has responded.

I was mayor of my community the entire time the pandemic raged in communities. Schools were closed and people died. In my city alone we lost more than 1,300 people. I lost two parents to the pandemic. And so I deeply understand the importance of vaccines, the importance of preventing pandemics and what really happened on the ground. Mayors are on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. And if there was government failure, it's because the Trump administration left cities and states to their own devices early on.

So I'm eager to speak from a position of authority and experience on this issue, both from personal experience and personal loss, but also from leading a city that President Biden has recognized as one of the best responses to the pandemic in the denoted country. He called Long Beach a national model. California Governor Gavin Newsom said we have the best response in the state when it comes to the pandemic. And then I will be very engaged very soon.

christian peace

Have you talked to any of the other freshman representatives about the specific issues or questions that you all want to address or answer?

receive garcia

We've all talked, all the freshmen who are in supervision, we all know each other, we're all friends, we all support each other. And the most important thing we all agree on is that we will not give free rein to the extreme voices of the far right. So when you have people like Greg [Marry from Texas], Jared [Moskowitz from Florida] and [Dan Goldman] and [Maxwell Frost] and so many others, we're all ready for this moment. And we're also grateful to the leadership for believing in us, for being that voice, because we understand the importance of this committee and what the Republicans will try to do for the country through this committee. We understand that we are at the forefront of this fight.

christian peace

You definitely at least started that Twitter feud by taking some photos of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. What makes you target them specifically?

receive garcia

The two, almost more than most congressmen, spread the craziest lies and untruths. So I think it's time for people to come clean and not allow or give them space to continue doing this. The problem with our class is that we are also very impatient and aggressive and want to make sure we back off quickly. And that's what we're really focusing on.

christian peace

That's really interesting, because quick reactions and countermessages aren't necessarily something the first classes of Democratic congressmen were particularly good at, especially in today's media environment. What do you and your classmates make you best suited for this game?

receive garcia

The new freshman cohort is in very close contact with our communities back home, we understand the power of communicating with the public, with a younger audience, with people frustrated with politics. People like Comer, Taylor Greene, Boebert and Gosar, all these people do not represent the mainstream of American politics, or the mainstream at all. You are on the sidelines. The Freedom Caucus is on the periphery of the country. So all of us who come in as freshmen probably have an idea, we're not apologetic, we're all angry about the injustices in this country, and for me personally, when I hear or see people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, you lie about vaccines that could have saved my mother's life, which she absolutely should have taken first, this is not acceptable to me.

christian peace

It also seems to me that this new generation of Democrats is more comfortable with social media, cultural references and access to a different communication ecosystem, something that previous committees in the Obama years lacked or were not good at. you tweeted about itRuPaul's Drag Race, for example, when he mocks MPs George Santos and Taylor Greene.

receive garcia

I think that's correct. One thing you notice about a lot of freshmen is that we come from different backgrounds, and you saw that in Congress a few years ago when different types of people were elected. It's more a bunch of new working class people. These are people who can be a little more aggressive, a little more impatient, which means we give ourselves completely. For me, I happen to be aRuPaul's Drag RaceFan, I love drag, I think it's a great art form. And I won't apologize for it.

If you have people attacking artists, like drag artists, and you have people attacking trans people, you need to report them. As a gay and queer person, I have a responsibility to speak out. And I will use every tool at my disposal to do that.

christian peace

You will also serve on the Homeland Security Committee. What will it be like to be part of the minority trying to get things done?

receive garcia

Well, our plan is to get the chamber back in two years. But yes, many things are not approved in this Congress. Republicans focus on national abortion bans, demonizing gay children, the war on books and women, but we hear from some more moderate Republicans who are interested in immigration reform and they understand that there is a labor shortage and that immigration reform can help. .

Being on Homeland Security is also an opportunity for the progressives on the committee...to bring attention to issues related to justice for immigrants and asylum seekers at the border and to ensure that these agencies are actually doing their jobs, not uninjured people. And we want to protect the American people from all types of attacks, including domestic terrorists and white supremacists.

christian peace

And you will also be on that committee with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

receive garcia

Yeah, I don't know how lucky I was with the draw that she was also in Homeland Security, which is crazy.

But, again, it will be important in this committee to reject the demonization of migrants and attacks on asylum seekers, and to be able to allow federal law enforcement to come under scrutiny.

christian peace

And finally, on a more personal level, are you ready to take on the heat? To deal with the onslaught of followers these right-wingers have online or in real life, here in DC or at home?

receive garcia

I've definitely been thinking about these things. But I went through more as a queer immigrant than most people. Gays [and] immigrants are some of the most resilient people in this country. This moment calls for a different kind of leadership and parliamentarians. Our class brings this with us and we are excited and ready to go.

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