Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) is working to include language in a defense policy bill that would block Congressional oversight of military forces including the National Guard in certain cases of deployment inside the country.
Schiff is the chairman of the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and has been prominent in pursuing the investigation of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
He is proposing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that is currently being debated in the House. Republicans have criticized the proposal as an attempt to block in advance GOP oversight in the event control of the House returns to them after the November midterm elections.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) described the proposal as an “un-American” attempt to “irreparably erode Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility.” The chair of the House Republican Conference and member of the House Armed Services Committee said that Democrats are working to “cover up for the national security crises of the weakest commander in chief in U.S. history.”
Even though the oversight exemption is designated to cover only domestic troop deployments, Republicans say it could work to shield a wide range of activity including border security and the security failings at the Capitol complex on January 6, 2021.
Schiff proposed the same measure in 2020, citing President Trump’s statements about deploying the U.S. Army to deal with rioting and violence in multiple American cities.
Advocates for governmental transparency oppose the Schiff proposal, arguing that it would suppress evidence and shield the Pentagon from scrutiny. It is also said to endanger the power of an opposition party to conduct oversight of a presidential administration.
The Heritage Foundation’s National Security Law Program manager Charles Stimson said that the proposal is the “opposite of transparency” and “really stinks to high heaven.” He said the amendment would block both Congress and the federal courts from proper oversight of military operations and intelligence.
Republicans are more motivated to fight the amendment now that it appears likely they will retake control of the House after this year’s elections. They reportedly plan investigations and hearings regarding the Biden White House’s handling of the immigration crisis at the southern border. Thousands of Texas National Guard troops have been deployed in the region.
The GOP also appears poised to begin investigating the security failures at the Capitol on January 6 if they retake control.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said he is very concerned about the Schiff proposal because “Democrats know we are going to take back the majority and are already trying to tie our hands when we do.”