Before this administration came to power Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) was barely a blip on my radar, but over the last three years he has risen constantly in my estimation to become one of the giants. If there would have been any value putting a Californian on the ticket, he would have been one of my top Veep choices. He has been the sharpest and most consistent critic of the Bush administration’s dishonest science policies in either house. Now he’s going after the Republicans’ abdication of their oversight responsibility.
This is from an op-ed he wrote for today’s Washington Post.
In the past four years there has been an abrupt reversal in Congress's approach to oversight.
During the Clinton administration, Congress spent millions of tax dollars probing alleged White House wrongdoing. There was no accusation too minor to explore, no demand on the administration too intrusive to make.
When President Clinton was in office, Congress exercised its oversight powers with no sense of proportionality. But oversight of the Bush administration has been even worse: With few exceptions, Congress has abdicated oversight responsibility altogether.
Republican Rep. Ray LaHood aptly characterized recent congressional oversight of the administration: "Our party controls the levers of government. We're not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn."
Compare the following: Republicans in the House took more than 140 hours of testimony to investigate whether the Clinton White House misused its holiday card database but less than five hours of testimony regarding how the Bush administration treated Iraqi detainees.
There is a simple but deplorable principle at work. In both the Clinton and Bush eras, oversight has been driven by raw partisanship. Congressional leaders have vacillated between the extremes of abusing their investigative powers and ignoring them, depending on the party affiliation of the president.
Asking tough questions is never easy, especially if one party controls both Congress and the White House, but avoiding them is no answer. Evenhanded oversight is not unpatriotic; it's Congress's constitutional obligation.
When the Democrats retake the House, I hope Waxman gets all of the committee chairmanships he can eat.