This summer, at a Judiciary hearing on the wave of new abortion bans and restrictions passed by conservative-led states, Chairman Jerry Nadler railed against his GOP colleagues, calling them arrogant for wanting to impose their anti-abortion views on the rest of the country. Ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) shot back that Nadler’s remarks were the height of hypocrisy.
For most of the committees history, there was some crossover, with certain Democrats opposed to the procedure on religious grounds and some Republicans opposed to government overreach into the medical realm. But that’s largely evaporated in recent years.
Both the Democratic party and the Republican party have hewed much more closely to what social movements want, Ziegler said. It used to be that the pro-choice movement and the pro-life movement were fighting to appeal to what they called the mushy middle. But recently, both sides have been throwing down the gauntlet and not really focusing on how those issues poll with most Americans.
Ziegler said the dynamic has been evident in Republicans efforts to strip taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood and Democrats efforts to make taxpayer funding available to pay for abortions directly positions multiple polls show most of the country does not support.
The Judiciary Committee attracts people who are passionate about these issues, so youre going to have people who are strong on a womans right to choose and youre going to have people who are against that and think the government should decide, Cohen said. Thats part of why I chose Judiciary I think a womans right to choose is extremely important.
In the context of impeachment, the committee is tasked not with nailing down what Trump and his administration did, but with determining whether those acts rise to the level of an impeachable offense. This assignment, and the national spotlight that comes with it, has made the Houses most ambitious and vocal members just as eager for a spot on the committee as they were decades earlier.
Before Watergate, there werent a lot of hearings that were televised other than the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, Lawrence said. But suddenly the Judiciary Committee people became rock stars because they were on TV. Most of the country had never before seen Congress doing its work like that. So we had a lot of young attorneys who came to Congress after that inspired by Watergate and wanting to get on that committee. It was place to be in the 1970s.
Today, with the House vote to impeach a foregone conclusion and the Senate voting to remove Trump from office a near-impossibility, congressional scholars say its more useful to think of this week’s proceedings as de facto campaign rallies.