Editorial | House GOP is endangering civil rights, liberties by disbanding subcommittee


AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite

Members on the Republican side of the House Judiciary Committee, from left, Rep. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, and Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., listen to amendment proposals as the panel meets to pass its operating rules under the GOP majority, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

At the end of January, the GOP-controlled House Oversight and Accountability Committee leaders disbanded the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. Following this decision, some House Democrats expressed concern, saying “GOP Oversight⁩ tried to toss out the Civil Rights Subcommittee without anybody noticing.”

The Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties oversaw issues related to voting rights, equal employment, criminal justice reform policies and legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the Census Bureau and the Census, among other important rights. Unfortunately, word of the decision wasn’t heavily publicized until recently. 

The release of the graphic video showing Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of the Memphis police came shortly before the panel was dismantled. Democrats, and even Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, have drawn attention to the incident.

Greene, also a member of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, said Nichols’ death was tragic but that she doubted it was a civil rights issue. She then shifted the attention off of Nichols and onto Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was killed during the insurrection, almost as to say the two incomparable deaths are akin to each other.

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

While Comer makes a valid point, it does not remedy eliminating a subcommittee dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable people who have been historically mistreated — and continue to face discrimination and oppression today. Also, by not allocating special time and resources to investigating civil rights and civil liberties — especially within a committee slated to review “40 or 50 different things” — efforts to address any infringements will most likely fall to the wayside. 

Rep. Jasmine Crockett introduced an amendment that would reinstate the subcommittee and “show the American people what this committee stands for.” Crockett’s proposal to reinstate the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee was one of six amendments Democrats proposed, all of which were voted down on party lines and ultimately died in the hands of the GOP-controlled House. 

The decision to dissolve the subcommittee is chalked up to “efficiency, effectiveness and accountability,” but in a nation that does not have a positive track record when it comes to the protection and granting of civil rights, reinstating the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee is in the best interest of efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. It’s unethical for a largely white, male legislature to make this “reckless and cruel” decision on behalf of underrepresented minorities.