As the late President Woodrow Wilson famously remarked, “Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, but Congress in committee rooms is Congress at work.” This is perhaps never more evident than during the current investigation into Russian interference with the US election. Behind every speech, comment or Bill introduced on the floor of the House or Senate lies a relentless effort to gather information and develop the best possible legislative proposals to put forward to the full membership for consideration. This is the work of committees, and it requires lawmakers to put aside their ideologies and focus on what is truly at stake for their constituents.
As they dig into a matter as fraught and partisan as the election hacking, members on the Intelligence Committee are at a crossroads. Two have decided to leave Congress after this year, while others are facing tough reelections or eyeing leadership posts. Two of the panel’s Democrats, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, have already been stripped of their committee assignments for their inflammatory rhetoric. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has recruited both of the GOP’s censured members—Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Cheney—to serve as her panel’s sole Republicans.
As the investigation draws to a close, these members are still grappling with how they will frame its results and move forward in the future. Thompson, a longtime civil rights advocate, sees his role in this probe as a way to fight domestic extremism—which is a familiar topic for him, not only from his time on the Homeland Security Committee but also from his early involvement in the fight against racial injustice. Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, frames issues in an unflinching manner and often goes toe-to-toe with the Republicans on their messaging. He is a confidant of Pelosi and has been mentioned as a potential future House leader or even presidential contender.