Report: Restoring Government Oversight and Accountability

December 28, 2012

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today released a new Committee staff report chronicling the impact of oversight in the 112th Congress as result of efforts to restore meaningful oversight that had been diminished during the two years of one-party rule in the previous Congress.

The report notes and describes 38 examples where Oversight and Government Reform Committee efforts in the 112th Congress have led to accountability and efforts to address failures of government. These include the Committee’s efforts to investigate flawed and reckless strategies in Operation Fast and Furious, security failures that contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, and the committee’s efforts to support the GSA Inspector General investigation of wasteful conference spending.

The report also places the committee’s most recent efforts in context with those that took place during the previous two Congresses – former Chairman Henry Waxman’s zealous investigations of the Bush and Administration and the greatly diminished oversight of the Obama Administration that occurred under Chairman Edolphus Towns.

Highlights of the report:

Examples of Oversight Committee’s impact discussed in the report:

  • Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious
  • Security Failures in Benghazi
  • General Services Administration Conference Spending
  • Leadership at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Executive Compensation
  • Possible Administration Violations of Federal Records Laws
  • Mismanagement in the Medicaid Program
  • Severstal North America Loan Agreement
  • Righting the Federal Employee Pension System
  • Hatch Act Violations
  • Reforming the Burdensome Regulatory Environment
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Cost-Benefit Analyses
  • Bias at the National Labor Relations Board
  • Administration’s “Sue and Settle” Tactics
  • Abuses at Afghanistan’s Dawood National Military Hospital
  • Department of Labor “Green” Jobs
  • Political Influence in DHS’s FOIA Process
  • OSHA’s Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Program
  • Vacancies at Inspector General Positions
  • Barriers to Capital Formation
  • Countrywide VIP Program
  • Violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
  • Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program
  • TARP and Stimulus Oversight
  • Government-Wide Improper Payments
  • Identity Theft-Related Tax Fraud
  • Financial Management at Departments of Defense and Homeland Security
  • Department of Justice Quid Pro Quo with the City of St. Paul
  • Duplicative Programs in Government
  • Unaccountability at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Medicare Advantage Quality Bonus Demonstration
  • Food and Drug Administration’s Drug Shortage Crisis
  • Obamacare’s Drag on Jobs and the Deficit
  • The Administration’s Housing Policy
  • The Administration’s Energy Policy
  • Disparate Treatment of Delphi Pensions
  • Coercion in Establishing National Fuel Economy Standards
On the Committee under Chairman Waxman in the 110th Congress:

“During his tenure leading the Oversight Committee, Chairman Waxman held 203 full committee or subcommittee hearings.  Chairman Waxman sent over 450 letters seeking information or requesting a witness’s presence at a committee hearing in his first year alone.  Over his two years as chairman, Chairman Waxman issued over 45 subpoenas relating to his oversight of the Bush Administration and related activities.”

“Yet Chairman Waxman’s oversight efforts were not without criticism.  Before he assumed the chairmanship, one writer in the Washington Post predicted that Chairman Waxman would adopt an aggressive style, writing: ‘He has dreamed of subpoenas – issuing them, and placing witnesses under oath – for 12 years.’  Duke University political scientist David Rohde commented that as Chairman Waxman ratcheted up congressional oversight, clearly ‘a degree of it [was] for show.’  Columnist Robert Novak bluntly called Chairman Waxman’s oversight efforts “an all-out war against [President] Bush” and ‘payback time for Democrats’ after twelve-years in the House minority.  Other commentators called Chairman Waxman’s investigation of Roger Clemens’s use of steroids ‘a witch hunt,’ and his hearing on misinformation in Afghan and Iraqi military operations a ‘political fishing expedition.’”

On the Committee under Chairman Towns in the 111th Congress:

“Even before President Obama was sworn in, an Associated Press report suggested that the Democrats in the 111th Congress would ‘go soft’ on the new Administration.  ‘When Congress and the White House are controlled by different parties,’ the reported explained, ‘it’s a formula for vigorous and adversarial oversight by congressional committees.  But when the same party rules both branches of government, it’s far more likely that the president will get a free pass.’  A few months into the Obama Administration, the liberal Mother Jones magazine confirmed the Democrats’ acquiescence to the new Administration, noting how ‘the oversight committee seems to be willing to give the White House more leeway’ than it did during the Bush Administration.”

“At the beginning of the 111th Congress, Speaker Pelosi, excited about the legislative prospects of one-party rule, increased funding for almost all House committees by an average of nine percent.  Yet she gave the Oversight Committee – the sole committee charged with conducting broad oversight of the Obama Administration – a minimal 3.43 percent increase that was closer to the rate of inflation.”

“The new Oversight Chairman, Edolphus Towns, promised to conduct vigorous oversight of the Obama Administration; however, the Committee’s actions never matched the Chairman’s rhetoric.  Under Chairman Towns, the Oversight Committee held only 164 full committee or subcommittee hearings.  Whereas Chairman Waxman sent 450 letters in a single year during the Bush Administration, Chairman Towns only sent approximately 420 letters during the entirety of his two-year chairmanship during the Obama Administration – many had nothing to do with waste and abuse in government.  In addition, while Chairman Waxman issued over 45 subpoenas, Chairman Towns served only 7 subpoenas during his entire tenure leading the Committee.”

“At the end of the 111th Congress, Chairman Towns stepped down as the senior Democrat on the Oversight Committee, writing to Speaker Pelosi: ‘I decided to withdraw my candidacy following a conversation with you when you made it clear that I did not have your support.’  It was not made clear whether Towns’ loss of support was due to his ineffective oversight of the Obama Administration or his willingness to tolerate independent investigations undertaken by the then Republican minority led by Ranking Member Darrell Issa.”

On the Committee under Chairman Issa in the 112th Congress:

“When the 112th Congress convened in January 2011, the new Republican majority rededicated the House to comprehensive and robust congressional oversight.  In accepting the gavel as Speaker, John Boehner pledged to promote a ‘government that’s honest, accountable, and responsive to [the citizens’] needs, a government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public that it serves.’  For its part, the Oversight Committee has carried out the Speaker’s pledge by identifying waste in the federal government and by striving to ensure that American taxpayers have a government that works for them.”

“Chairman Darrell Issa assumed the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee with a commitment to target government inefficiency, reduce Washington spending, and reform the federal bureaucracy.  Chairman Issa dedicated the Oversight Committee to be ‘the committee of stopping government from taking away your liberties, government from exceeding its authority, government from keeping your business from expanding and growing, government from spending your money less efficiently than you would spend it yourself.’”

“In the 112th Congress, the Oversight Committee has exercised a renewed commitment to effective congressional oversight, restoring the Committee to a workload more comparable to times before one-party rule during the first two years of the Obama Administration.  Chairman Issa and Oversight Committee members have sent over 760 letters in furtherance of the Committee’s oversight obligations.  The Committee has held 199 full committee and subcommittee hearings on a number of important topics, ranging from the Department of Justice’s failed Operation Fast and Furious to the high number of inspector general vacancies at federal agencies.  Additionally, the Committee has issued 32 staff reports – each extensively sourced and based in fact – highlighting and explaining significant failures in all segments of the federal government.”

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