McCarthy finally names GOP members to Clyburn’s coronavirus oversight panel

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has finally named GOP members for Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's coronavirus select committee, ending a partisan stalemate over the panel.

McCarthy tapped Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Jackie Walorski of Indiana and Mark Green of Tennsesse.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) and GOP leaders strongly opposed the creation of the Clyburn select committee, claiming it will be an effort by Democrats to dig up evidence for "Impeachment 2.0" over President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Some Republicans had urged McCarthy to boycott the panel, arguing it would just validate the Democratic-led effort. But ultimately, GOP leadership decided it was better to have a seat at the table where they could mount a vigorous defense of Trump.

“We saw during impeachment they set up a committee that was just designed to spread false information,” Scalise said in an interview. “Our committee is going to be focused on getting the facts out and trying to sharpen the focus on things we should be dealing with, like holding China accountable or overseeing the relief package and helping families and businesses get back to their lives.”

They've also repeatedly attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) choice of Clyburn to head the panel, claiming the veteran South Carolina Democratic lawmaker is too openly political to handle the post, although Democrats reject that assertion as misguided.

"Before we knew the mission of this committee, [Pelosi] nominated who would become the chair. Jim Clyburn, who is probably one of the most political people on the Democratic side, described this pandemic as a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit their vision," McCarthy said.

McCarthy bashed Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who are also on the panel, as well.

“While I have strong misgivings about Speaker Pelosi’s intentions behind the creation of this select committee, I am honored to be named by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy as the lead Republican on the committee, and I’m ready to get to work confronting the challenges we face," Scalise said in a statement.

And McCarthy has created his own "China task force" to look into a number of China-related issues, including the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, will head the effort. Other members include GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), John Joyce (R-Pa.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.).

The Republicans, who serve on more than 10 House committees, "will be looking at a wide range of China-related issues, including influence operations targeting the [United States], including our universities, think tanks and media outlets; economic threats to our government and our allies; efforts to gain a technological advantage; and [China's] role in the origin and spread of Covid-19," McCarthy said at his weekly news conference. Legislative recommendations are due by October.

McCarthy said he and Pelosi, a longtime China critic, had discussions about the task force several months ago, but Pelosi pulled out at the last minute.

Melanie Zanona contributed to this story.

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Senate Republicans show little interest in new Biden probes

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch said Tuesday that he has no plans to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden over Ukraine, despite being urged to do so by a top Senate Republican and Donald Trump ally.

When asked whether he was going to look into Biden’s role in the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin — including allegations that it was done to to stop an investigation into Burisma, a top Ukrainian natural gas company on whose Hunter Biden served — Risch said it isn’t something he is considering.

“I’ve got other things I’m doing right now, and I haven’t given it any thought,” Risch told reporters. And that’s how most of his colleagues feel.

Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other GOP hardliners are pushing for a multipronged Biden probe by Senate panels, despite the fact that no evidence exists the former vice president was involved in any Ukraine cover-up. Graham has said he’s going to look into potential abuse of surveillance laws that led to the Russia probe by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. President Donald Trump's legal team prepared to wrap up arguments in his impeachment trial Tuesday as Senate Republicans wrestled with whether to allow witnesses, including John Bolton who appeared ready to contradict a key Trump claim. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

But there appears to be little appetite among other Senate Republicans for an extended effort to investigate Biden, who has already taken a political hit over the Hunter Biden controversy.

Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has been looking into the whistleblower process overall, although he is not specifically targeting the individual whose complaint triggered the Ukraine scandal.

And Burr acknowledged that he isn’t trying to “relitigate” the events that led to Trump’s impeachment.

“I’ve never conducted an investigation in public, and I’m not going to now,” Burr said when asked whether he planned to subpoena the whistleblower.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wouldn’t say whether he had any plans to subpoena the Bidens.

Johnson, though, said his focus was more on alleged efforts by Ukrainian officials to interfere in the 2016 election and whether there was any involvement of Obama administration officials. As with the alleged Biden cover-up of Bursima, no evidence has emerged to show any such links, but Trump seized on the theories during his push to get Ukraine to pursue investigations that would help his political prospects.

“My concern is to really get to the bottom of DNC involvement, meetings in the White House in January 2016, that involved a certain NSC Ukraine specialist, and involved Ukrainian prosecutors. We have to get to the bottom of this,” Johnson said. Johnson and Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have sought thousands of pages of internal documents from the Obama White House, but former President Barack Obama would have to agree to release this information, which doesn’t seem likely at this point.

The top Democrat on Foreign Relations, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said Republicans should focus on the real issues facing the country, not the Bidens.

“There’s a lot of things happening in the world that affect the national interest and security of the United States far more than any investigation of the Bidens,” Menendez said. “Looking at Russia, looking at China, looking at North Korea, Iran ... It’s ridiculous.”

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