House Oversight Committee Disbands Civil Rights Subcommittee

February 1, 2023

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Tuesday disbanded the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) insisted that the disbanding did not mean that the topics the subcommittee was designed to focus on, such as voting rights, freedom of assembly and criminal justice reform, could not still be brought before Oversight.

“Let me be very clear: any topic that’s not mentioned in the subcommittee jurisdiction is reserved for the full committee,” Comer said. “We can have a committee hearing in this committee on basically anything we want.”

Some Democrats on Oversight cried foul, particularly as the subcommittee’s disbanding comes in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death following a beating by Memphis police officers—who’ve since been charged with murder—that was caught on video.

Freshman Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) introduced an amendment that would have reinstated the subcommittee and “show the American people what this committee stands for,” she said, framing it as a choice between “whether we will waste taxpayers’ time and money on fishing expeditions, or whether we will dedicate ourselves to holding those who violate the civil and human rights of our constituents accountable.”

The Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee was established in 2019 by then-Oversight Chair Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who said at the time, “We’ll shine a bright light on violations of the civil rights and civil liberties of the people wherever they occur, and we’ll work to make progress at a time when our most precious values are under attack.”

Among those in agreement with Chairman Comer’s decision was committee member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who said that while Nichols’ death was tragic, she did not see it as a civil rights issue. Further, she compared it to the shooting death of January 6, 2021 Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt—whose mother was in the room when Greene made the comparison. 

Crockett’s proposal to reinstate the Civil Rights Subcommittee was one of six amendments proposed by Democrats, all of which were voted down along party lines.

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