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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Range of policies will draw scrutiny when House changes majorities

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is seen Nov.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is seen Nov. 28 with Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), left, Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). Pelosi's party takes the House majority in January. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

The appearance of James Comey at a closed-door hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday marked the GOP majority's final effort to help the Trump administration degrade the former FBI director.

Democrats take over the House next month. Beyond obvious plans to dig into President Donald Trump's business dealings and potential conflicts, many new inquiries are expected involving an array of federal agency operations.

Nobody knows if these topics will prompt the multiyear process that the Republican Congress launched regarding the Benghazi attack during the Obama years, which churned up the Hillary Clinton email uproar.

But the White House under Trump for the first time will confront oversight inquiries directed by the opposing party.

The topics draw scattered national media attention.

One example: The news site ProPublica has documented how members of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida steered the Department of Veterans Affairs — although none had relevant expertise or served in the military.

The trio has had backroom input, for example, on medical records contracts, job candidates and budgets.

Then there's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, already the target of multiple ethics probes, who drew extra attention to them by bashing a House Democrat who demanded his resignation.

Zinke accused Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) of using taxpayer money to cover up "drunken and hostile behavior," and tweeted, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle."

How Zinke's snark would help him is unclear. Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Western Priorities, remarked to USA Today that it is "foolish to pick a fight with a member of Congress who will soon have oversight and subpoena power over your agency."

As incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva also is expected to oversee an investigation of the majority-Republican fiscal board overseeing Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, which falls under the committee's jurisdiction.

Another subject to watch is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In August, the top official for student loans resigned, saying bureau leadership under Budget Director Mick Mulvaney "has abandoned its duty to fairly and robustly enforce the law."

Last month, the Bloomberg Law news site reported that Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, plans to call in Labor Department officials to answer for a recent regulatory change affecting tipped workers such as waiters.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who's likely to become House Armed Services Committee chairman, told the Federal News Network: "We need to make sure the military is not engaged in places or in ways that are not in our best interest and are not transparent."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), due to chair the Oversight Committee, promised in a TV interview last month to focus on issues clearly relevant to the public.

Cummings added: “I’m not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody's handing out candy on Halloween.”

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