Democrats & Liberals Archives

Oversight

I came across an article from right before the 2006 elections entitled, “When Congress Checks Out.” It’s about the importance of Congressional oversight as part of the checks and balances our Founding Fathers believed were so important to the success of a democratic form of government — and how the Republican Congress failed us.

Now that Congressional oversight is working again, it's getting hard to imagine what it was like when nobody questioned the machinations of the executive branch. It's now hard to believe that the House Majority Leader -- the guy who is supposed to protect the people from abuses by the executive branch -- could say that when the president and the congressional majority are of the same party, "You don't need the [oversight] hearings."

Yet that's exactly what happened. The Republican Congress became an extension of the executive branch rather than a check on its power.

As a comparison, in 1993-94, the last time a Democratic Congress served with a Democratic President, there were 135 oversight hearings. In 2003-04, there were only 37. And the few hearings that were held, were more pro-forma than investigative,

The House Energy and Commerce Committee produced 117 pages of activity reports on oversight during the 1993-94 cycle, compared with 24 pages during 2003-4. In the mid-1990s, the Republican Congress took 140 hours of testimony on whether President Clinton had used his Christmas mailing list to find potential campaign donors; in 2004-5, House Republicans took 12 hours of testimony on Abu Ghraib.

The Congress' failure to question the executive branch's policies and priorities led to the failures of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and to unquestioned Iraq WMD intelligence and occupation policy -- like not sending enough troops to do the job, not keeping the reconstruction contractors honest and disbanding the Iraqi army.

I heard GOP presidential candidate Duncan Hunter recently touting his experience on the House Armed Services Committee. Good Lord! That a guy who utterly failed in his job as a check on the administration's disastrous Iraq policy could point to that as a positive is absolutely surreal.

Duncan Hunter -- the guy who unquestioningly oversaw the humbling of our military might in Iraq and the deterioration of two-thirds of all our Army and National Guard units -- has really big brass ones to run for President on a national defense platform.

And that goes for every single Republican legislator running for President. These guys failed to do their jobs in Congress, and now they want to be President? What kind of idiots do they take us for? Hell no.

Posted by American Pundit at April 29, 2007 1:34 AM
Comments
Comment #218709

I just saw this….makes me wonder if anyone in DC actually remembers Katrina….
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/28/AR2007042801113.html?hpid=topnews
Is New Orleans and its’ citizens ever going to get what they need? It would appear that for the most part, they have already just been written off as a bad dream.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at April 29, 2007 3:29 AM
Comment #218715

One party government is antithetical to a democracy of diverse peoples. God help us. Because in 2008 we are going to have another one. If anyone believes oversight is going to be substantially more stringent in a one party Democratic Gov’t. than in a one party Republican one, I have a glacier in the Amazon I would like to interest you in.

More than a billion dollars will flow through the two major parties for the ‘08 elections. And 80 or 90% of it won’t be coming from the us working class voters. Folks, with those kind of stakes, bribes, and blackmail, do not expect ethical and idealistic behavior from politicians of either party. Get the vast majority of that money out of politics, and our government and both parties just might find a way toward responsibility and integrity again.

Vote out Democrat incumbents. Vote out Republican incumbents. Keep voting them out until the new guys and gals, for want of being reelected, actually pass true, effective, and lasting campaign finance reform that ends the corruption of our government, political process, and political parties.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 29, 2007 9:32 AM
Comment #218720

David, I think you missed reading a portion of the article:

As a comparison, in 1993-94, the last time a Democratic Congress served with a Democratic President, there were 135 oversight hearings.

So yes, oversight is substantially more stringent in a one party Democratic government than in a one party Republican one.

Posted by: Jarandhel at April 29, 2007 11:27 AM
Comment #218732

The key on oversight, I think, is that Republicans in the Bush administration and in the late Republican majority had a darkly pessimistic vision of Federal governance to begin with. They do not believe they can improve the functioning of the government. We do.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 29, 2007 2:17 PM
Comment #218741

Stephen makes a crucial point. Republicans, those currently in office, most of them, operate from the assumption that government is a necessary evil, and the less of it, the better. When one walks into office assuming one is walking into a role serving a necessary evil, one will tend to make some very relativist decisions as to which is the greater evil, like not being reelected or allowing government to actually serve the people.

That relativist decision making is not unique to the Republican Party, but, theirs assumes government is bad in the first place, so, what’s the harm of doing lesser bad things like lying, taking some quid pro quo to stay in office, or perpetuate one’s party despite its policy resulting in the unwarranted deaths of thousands of Americans and 10’s of thousands of Iraqi’s, for example?

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 29, 2007 4:10 PM
Comment #218742

I should hasten to add, similar effects can be found in the Democratic Party which assumes that if tragedy happens, government should respond to prevent it from reoccuring, regardless of Constitution, principles, or real world social sciences of sociology, psychology, and economics.

Cho, a mentally disturbed man kills many on a college campus, and many Democrats are ready to throw the Constitution down the toilet (since, they can’t amend it) by calling for registration or even confiscation of guns by law abiding citizens. The illogical nature of this kind of heart-tug knee jerk reaction to use government authority to solve individual tragedy has been a hallmark of Democrats for many, many decades.

But many Dems have a duplicitous heart, as they cry for the victims of Va. Tech, but, rail against the Supreme Ct. decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortion at the end of term which most Americans support. So much for Democrat’s conviction toward democracy and majority consensus guiding them.

They rail at the ethics and corruption of the Republican Party but lift not a finger to enact true effective campaign finance reform to rid our government, politics, and political parties of the institutionalized bribery, blackmail, and wealthy special interests influence peddling of our current campaign finance and lobbying systems.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 29, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #218759

DR Remer
Certainly not all Dems are calling for more gun control. A background check that works perhaps. Better access to healthcare,including psyche care?This Dem is upset that no one at that school had the wherewithall to take that jerk out.

The Reps have another germaine ethical weakness. Their free market souls are willing to be less critical about things that make money as though making money goes a long way in justifying nearly anything as ethical.Of course Halliburton is a good company. They make money don’t they? The rapacious salaries of some CEO’s are justified,even at the expense of workers and stockholders because after all,they are making money. Why shouldn’t a few thou from a defence contractor be ok? After all its just making money after all and making money is a good thing,right?

Posted by: BillS at April 29, 2007 7:03 PM
Comment #218764

Another point: Republicans in the old Congressional Majority and in the White House focus most of their pride on the notion on the fact that they fight the war, not that they’re winning it. They take it as a badge of pride that they’re not giving up, even though they have no real idea of how to draw a positive outcome from it.

It does a disservice to our country to entertain these fantasies of a war won through endurance, when we don’t know what to endure for.

We’re not merely speaking of enduring for, say, political bridge building. We’d endure for something that would get us to the next step and then move on.

What the Bush Administration’s basic response has been is making a small change in policy, imploring the public to have patience, failing to make progress, trying American’s patience, and then making a further small change in the policy to satisfy people, and changing the goals and the goal posts.

This has been the repeated pattern of the Bush
Administration’s war in Iraq, and Americans have grown fairly sick of it, and rightly so. If we can’t get real results, real changes in Iraq, we should not be continuing to prop up the dysfunctional remnants of the nation we failed to save. At this point, only the Iraqi can save themselves, and as long as we’re there, we’re in the way.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 29, 2007 8:03 PM
Comment #218766

BillS, quite right, which is why I said “many Democrats” and not all Democrats or just Democrats.

Making obscene sums of money is fine in the wealthiest nation on earth provided folks in your own society are not hurting and desperate for money for health care, nutritious foods, (junk foods are cheaper), and reliable transportation for work, and the extras that used to be part and parcel of a public education. Given that is the case in America, you are quite right, there is something wrong with justifying 45 million without health insurance and tax cuts to those making 100’s of million dollars a year compensation packages for a 50 or 60 hour work week, valet, chauffeur, secretaries, appt. setters, and private jets to sweat and labor in.

But don’t knock making money all by itself. The alternative is a barter system at best, or feudal system, or worse, anarchy. Money was actually one of the greatest inventions of humankind: too great, actually, for it facilitated overpopulating the earth in the end to inhumane and appalling suffering of nearly half of them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 29, 2007 9:10 PM
Comment #218803

These “oversight hearings’ are nothing more than politics as usual. Do you really think that the Democrats would be having all the time and money wasting hearings if the President was a Democrat?
Let’s just see what happens to the “oversight hearings” if they keep Congress and get the White House in 08.
The Republicans didn’t see any need for them after they won the White House in 2000. But before that they were very necessary to keep Billy in line.
The Democrats are finding them very necessary now to keep Georgie in line. But I don’t very much they’ll find them necessary at all if they win in 08.

Posted by: Ron Brown at April 30, 2007 1:18 PM
Comment #218807

>>The Democrats are finding them very necessary now to keep Georgie in line. But I don’t very much they’ll find them necessary at all if they win in 08.

Posted by: Ron Brown at April 30, 2007 01:18 PM

Ron,

I think/hope you are wrong. Dems, and I’m one, can’t agree on much, so we don’t make very good ‘ditto heads’. Perhaps that will make the difference…I sure hope so. If and when our new Dem Prez screws up like Cheney/Bush, I’ll be first in line with the noose.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 30, 2007 2:03 PM
Comment #218813
These “oversight hearings” are nothing more than politics as usual.

Not so. Oversight hearing are the most important function Congress performs. The Republicans failed in that duty.

Do you really think that the Democrats would be having all the time and money wasting hearings if the President was a Democrat?

The numbers I posted show that they did. You should try reading the article before making uninformed comments like that.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 30, 2007 2:35 PM
Comment #218854

Stephen:

“Republicans in the old Congressional Majority and in the White House focus most of their pride on the notion on the fact that they fight the war, not that they’re winning it. They take it as a badge of pride that they’re not giving up, even though they have no real idea of how to draw a positive outcome from it.

It does a disservice to our country to entertain these fantasies of a war won through endurance, when we don’t know what to endure for.”

Indeed. One may even argue that they’ve actually stopped trying to ‘win’—and are now desperately trying ‘not to lose.’ After all, what’s a ‘win’ going to look like now, at this late date??

Posted by: Tim Crow at April 30, 2007 6:09 PM
Comment #218887

The very concept of ‘win/lose’ in this Iraq stupidity is inconsequential, irrelevant and just as stupid as the ‘war’ itself. It is not now, nor has it ever been ours to win or lose. It was ours to start, and we did a bang-up job of it, but it will not be ours to end, for it will continue long after we are gone no matter what we do, or how long we stay. All we can accomplish is to kill more people, destroy more country and leave it more ravaged than it was when we arrived, and with less central stability.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 30, 2007 10:14 PM
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