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The GOP-controlled House will first take up legislation indicating its priorities

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

After a dramatic fight to elect Kevin McCarthy speaker, House Republicans pivoted this week to trying to make good on their campaign promises. The first pieces of legislation taken up in the new Congress are meant to send a message on what the majority's governing priorities will be. For the Republican-controlled House, that means cutting government funding, opposing abortion rights and investigating the federal investigators.

NPR's Barbara Sprunt joins us now. So Republicans intend to launch a number of high-profile investigations, but this week they also voted along party lines to create a new subcommittee on the, quote, "weaponization" of the federal government. What's this panel supposed to do?

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Well, this falls under the House Judiciary. It has pretty broad jurisdiction. It will have the authority to investigate the government, including ongoing criminal investigations at the Justice Department. This has been a focus for incoming Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, who has long been a vocal critic of the FBI. Speaker McCarthy has said it could even look into the handling of classified documents that were found at President Biden's Delaware residence and at his old think tank office.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: It could go from that committee or others, but I think Congress has to investigate this.

SPRUNT: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called this committee extreme and noted that with Democrats in control of the Senate, not much of the House agenda will be getting through.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, now, in the first new bill of the new Congress, Republicans voted this week to undermine a familiar political target for the party, and that's the Internal Revenue Service.

SPRUNT: Exactly. And it would undo about $80 billion in new funding for the IRS that was passed into law over the summer as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. With that Democratic firewall in the Senate, this is a great example of a bill that plays great with the conservative base but is never going to be signed into law by President Biden. The money is intended to increase staffing at the agency, but Republicans have claimed falsely during the campaign season that it would create a, quote, "army" of IRS agents to go after Americans and small businesses. The Republican bill would add to the deficit, I think it's worth noting. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that without this new funding for more staff to improve tax collection, the deficit would actually grow by about 114 billion over the next decade. So it would cost more than the new funding.

MARTÍNEZ: I know abortion also was an issue this week, and House Republicans passed two abortion-related measures. Barbara, is this surprising, considering that opposition to abortion rights is one of the reasons why Republicans didn't fare as well in the midterm elections?

SPRUNT: Well, opposition to abortion rights is a pretty universally held view in the Republican Party at this point. It's another example of how they use this first week to not only make good on their campaign promises that they ran on in the midterms, but show voters that they're still talking about issues that they really care about. And just like the IRS bill, there's virtually zero chances that this moves on. But it shows that they're not shying away from issues that are important to the base.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so taxes, abortion, traditional partisan issues - is this what we should expect in Congress or any areas at all where there's bipartisanship maybe on the horizon?

SPRUNT: There are. Members of both parties this week voted to establish a new select committee on China, investigating China's growing global influence. Republican Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin will chair that committee, and he's called on Democrats and Republicans to work together on this issue.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Barbara Sprunt. Barbara, thanks.

SPRUNT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.