Document Production Status Update, Part II

Hearing Date: April 19, 2016 10:00 am 2154 Rayburn HOB

TAKEAWAYS:

  • OMB is intentionally misleading Congress by withholding subpoenaed documents and information related to the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rulemaking process.
  • Chairman Chaffetz announced his intention to enforce the subpoena, and raised the prospect of holding Office of Information and Regulatory (OIRA)  Administrator Howard  Shelanksi in contempt if OIRA continues to withhold the documents.
  • DHS was unable to articulate with specificity, anything Congress is not entitled to see in order to conduct legitimate oversight, yet continues to withhold information or produce heavily redacted documents.
  • HHS has neither complied with a subpoena for information relating to failed Consumer Operated and Oriented plans (co-ops), nor invoked a valid legal justification for withholding documents. Additionally, the agency lacks transparency on efforts to recoup taxpayer dollars for failed co-ops and on conducting site visits to assess the viability of the remaining co-ops.

PURPOSE:

  • To hear testimony from agencies that routinely fail to comply with the Committee’s requests.
  • To understand and evaluate why those agencies are withholding materials from the Committee.

BACKGROUND:

  • Congress’ right of access to executive branch information is constitutionally based and is critical to the concept of co-equal branches of government.
  • House committees use document requests to gather information about how statutes are applied and how funds are spent, among other things.
  • Consistent with the constitutional and statutory obligations of the executive branch, agencies are expected to cooperate and work in good faith to identify and produce records responsive to the Committee’s requests.
  • The Committee held its first hearing on agency document production in January 2016.

KEY VIDEOS:

Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): “What are you hiding? Why does it take two hearings, a subpoena, letters, requests, and you still are nonresponsive?”

Health Care, Benefits, and Administrative Rules Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH): “It takes that long to find out if you visited any of 11 [CO-OP] sites? … If over half have already failed, we’ve lost over a billion taxpayer dollars, we got eleven still functioning, eight of those are on a corrective action plan. You should be able to tell us which ones you went out to visit.”

National Security Subcommittee Chairman Ron DeSantis (R-FL): “But, when you actually have somebody who’s here illegally and they’re in the custody of ICE, if ICE would simply ever patriate them, well then the person who ended up being the victim of a crime would not have been the victim of a crime. And so that’s one example where the government clearly could have prevented crimes from occurring, so I think it’s a major issue of public safety.”

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
The Honorable Howard Shelanski Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Office of Management and Budget Document
The Honorable Jim R. Esquea Assistant Secretary for Legislation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Document
Mr. Jonathan E. Meyer Deputy General Counsel, Office of General Counsel U.S. Department of Homeland Security Document