Republicans have been skipping House Intelligence Committee hearings for months, and Democrats think they know why.
GOP lawmakers have skipped all but one of the panel’s public and private meetings since Congress went into a coronavirus lockdown in early March, and Democrats accused them of a partisan boycott, reported Politico.
“It seems almost counterproductive on their part,” said committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). “It seems rather childish, but I hope that they will reconsider.”
Republicans insist they’re concerned about cybersecurity during virtual meetings, two of which have been held on Cisco Webex, the same platform other congressional panels have used, or Microsoft Teams, which offers encryption.
“These things get hacked — why are we putting ourselves at that risk?” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), who sits on the committee. “You border on classified information and maybe sometimes even spill into it. It’s just not the way to conduct business, and there is no reason for it.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the GOP ranking member, repeatedly refused to comment on the absences.
The only Republican to attend a hearing in months was when then-Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) took part in an April 28 roundtable, a week before the Senate heard his nomination as President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence.
Republicans complained that Democrats won’t hold in-person hearings, but Democrats say the GOP minority has been skipping hearings since February — before the coronavirus shutdowns but after the impeachment saga.
“They have their grievances, right?” said committee member Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT). “The whole thing is absurd, but they haven’t even really negotiated.”
A senior committee official said the conferencing platforms are less of a hacking risk than lawmakers using House email or Gmail account from their home computers, and the committee plans to meet in person by the end of July to work on an annual budget bill.
The committee will also wrap up its probe of national security threats posed by China, and the panel will review the intelligence community’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.