GOP in the mood to probe
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Scripps Howard News Service
Congressional Republicans couldnít bring themselves to stop probing President Bill Clintonís administration, and seemingly couldnít bring themselves to investigate President George W. Bush at all.
Now the Republicans are back in charge of the House and appear to have recovered their enthusiasm for investigations. Even before formally taking over, they announced plans for nearly a dozen probes.
Leading the charge is California Rep. Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who has made no secret of his eagerness to get his hands on the panelís subpoena power.
Issa has announced plans for six major investigations in his first three months as chairman: how WikiLeaks came into possession of classified U.S. military communications and diplomatic cables; the effect of business regulation on job creation; the effectiveness of recalls by the Food and Drug Administration; the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing bubble and resulting foreclosure mess; the failure of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to pinpoint the cause of the crisis; and, perhaps most ambitiously, considering its pervasiveness, corruption in Afghanistan.
And thatís only the Houseís lead investigative committee.
Rep. Peter King of New York, the new chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, provoked a storm of alarm over his plans to investigate the alleged radicalization of American Muslims. The new chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Fred Upton of Michigan, telegraphed where heís coming from by promising to haul overzealous regulators, particularly from the EPA, before his panel.
Investigations and hearings are a legitimate and necessary function of Congress. They hold the executive branch accountable and ó in principle ó generate impartial information on which to base subsequent legislation.
All too often, however, congressional investigations degenerate into blunt weapons to score political or ideological points. And endless demands for the production of documents and witnesses are an unsubtle way of trying to cripple an administration. Maybe this time will be different, but Issaís debut doesnít inspire a lot of confidence in that regard.
Without a witness being called or a case being made, he pronounced Barack Obama ěone of the most corrupt presidents of modern times.î
Scaling back his remarks to say that Obama was presiding over ěone of the most corrupt administrationsî hardly bespeaks moderation and restraint.
The incumbent House Republicans say theyíve learned their lessons from their partyís rebuke at the polls in 2004 and 2008.
Weíll soon find out.