Op-Ed: Democrats should use their Senate majority to expose Republican corruption

Raphael Warnock and Chuck Schumer
With Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, reelected, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has a majority to lead.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

With Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia winning reelection, Democrats now have a 51-49 majority heading into the next Congress. Under a 50-50 Senate, each party seats the same number of members on committees. With a 51-seat majority, Democrats will now outnumber Republicans at the committee level for the first time in the Biden presidency. Most important, this means Senate Democrats can now exercise the reins of their oversight authority unilaterally. They don’t need Republican votes to issue subpoenas or conduct depositions.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have been downright boastful about their intentions to use their new majority, narrow as it is, to initiate an oversight tsunami targeting the Biden administration and Biden’s family. On Tuesday, Republican Leader (at least for the moment) Kevin McCarthy released an exhaustive list of oversight targets including Hunter Biden, the Justice Department, the FBI and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The Republican playbook is a simple one: They will use their oversight authority to initiate actions and confrontations that will captivate media attention and keep the Biden administration and Democrats on the defensive. Republicans in Congress are betting the House on the idea that the media will do their dirty work and will chronicle their oversight overreaches as legitimate instead of what they are: taxpayer-financed witch hunts.


That is why it is crucial that Democrats in the Senate embrace their newfound majority margins and exercise their oversight authority as well. Giving Republicans a clear field to dominate the oversight conversation would be a huge mistake that could cost Democrats dearly by the time we get to 2024. Through the extraordinary work of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, we have seen how effective oversight, when done right, can affect public opinion. This committee, incidentally, is about to be disbanded and then investigated by House Republicans.

Republicans like Rep. James Comer, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, plan on employing a “make accusations first, get the evidence second” crusade against the president and his family. There is no reason Senate Democrats should not turn the tables on Republicans by finally investigating the conflicts of interest created by Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner during their time in the White House.

Documents recently released by Congress reveal that foreign nations were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at President Trump’s hotel at the same time they were trying to influence our foreign policy.

Records obtained by Congress exposed that when agents had to stay in Trump hotels, Trump’s companies charged the Secret Service as much as five times more than the government rate, costing taxpayers more than $1.4 million.

Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner received a $2 billion “investment” from a fund controlled by the Saudi crown prince.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a report detailing 3,400 examples of Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest.


Let’s be very clear here: This is not a “both sides” situation.

If Democrats in the Senate pursue this kind of oversight agenda, it would be based on facts, building on investigative work that has already produced volumes of documents, testimony and indisputable examples of conflicts of interest by Trump and his family at the time. It’s worth noting that unlike Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Hunter Biden never served in the federal government in any capacity. The investigations Republicans are about to launch are conspiracy-theory-driven nonsense designed to smear their political adversaries.

I understand the impulse Democrats may have to not want to engage in this kind of oversight battle, but they should know that the battle is coming for them anyway. It would be a costly tactical mistake to allow Republicans to have an open field. Trump’s flagrant corruption has given Democrats more than enough ammunition for fruitful oversight inquiries, which should force Republicans to answer for their hypocrisy.

The only question is: Are Senate Democrats willing to step up, or will they yield to House Republicans?

Kurt Bardella is a contributing writer to Opinion. He is a Democratic strategist and a former senior advisor for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. @KurtBardella