A new article in The Hill reveals more details about the meeting held between White House official Clay Johnson, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican Congressional investigators. According to The Hill:
Gingrich and Johnson also spoke out against holding many public hearings on oversight.
Johnson said “A lot of communication with Congress doesn’t have to be in the hearing room.” He called for more work between the two branches to be done on an informal basis and said that hearings would work best at the end of the process.
Yeah, and maybe everyone can have a group hug too. The article goes on to add:
“Congressional hearings add to the problem,” noting that very often this “maximizes hostility between the legislative and executive branch and minimizes creativity.”
The White House’s Johnson even claims that “the executive branch provides better oversight than the legislative branch. He touted the OMB website expectmore.gov, which grades federal programs.”
Anyone out there have a few things to say about the effective programs listed at http://www.expectmore.gov? Perhaps a Congressional oversight hearing is merited on the effectiveness of Expectmore.gov.
For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission scores high marks in its spent fuel program, yet the program has done little since 9/11 to ensure that spent fue l pools are adequately protected from a terrorist attack (a scenario with the 9/11 Commission reported that terrorists had considered). Indeed, if the program is run so well, why did the NRC stone wall the Congressionally-requested National Academy of Sciences when it was conducting a review of security at the fuel pools?
NRC refused to allow its report to be released but, even worse, it refused to provide information to the Academy to help it conduct its study. According to the study (pg. 33): “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined to provide detailed briefings to the committee on surveillance, security procedures, and security training at commercial nuclear power plants.” Luckily, the House National Security Subcommittee has held hearings to hold NRC accountable.
Unfortunately, these “evaluation programs” by the executive branch often end up to be mealy-mouthed exercises in paper pushing. Though they can be useful, they cannot replace checks and balances between the branches of government. A principle, one which we feel folks like Johnson and Gingrich should be reminded, upon which our constitutional republic was founded.
-- Beth Daley